Breaking Through the Toughest of Business Situations

In my years navigating business finance, I’ve seen companies of all sizes face challenges and celebrate successes. It’s a universal truth: business is as much about peaks as it is valleys. However, with the right insights and a proactive mindset, even the toughest challenges can be tackled. This isn’t just about the numbers; it’s about the drive and determination behind them. Let’s dive into strategies that can help businesses find their footing during uncertain times, armed with practical knowledge and forward-focused thinking.


Always be prepared for the unthinkable.  We’ve had a tenuous twelve months and the next twelve unclear.  Crisis can happen.  Here are a few of our top suggestions to incorporate into your planning:


  1. Reserves
    1. Minimum cash reserves should be equal to three times your monthly spend. Ideally six months is preferable during times of uncertainty.
    2. Establish a working line of credit with a reputable lender if you do not currently have one in place.
    3. Inject personal funds or assets as a temporary relief measure.
    4. Ask for help from friends and family. They may be willing to lend money or invest in the long-term success of the business.
  2. Existing Debt
    1. If you have a large amount of existing debt, negotiate with your lenders for debt restructuring, deferred payments, or conversion to a debt equity instrument.
  3. Operational Review
    1. As long as there are not any continued challenges with your supply chain, adopt a strategy of just-in-time inventory management. Don’t suspend cash in non-moving or obsolete inventory.  Liquidate inventory that is non-moving or obsolete.
    2. Be honest with Customers and Suppliers about the current state of your business. It will not be a shock to them, and they will be very supportive if your relationship has been strong.
  4. Staffing
    1. Be honest with your employees and prepare them for possible outcomes. This can be a strong strategy to gain acceptance and creativity if handled with trust and respect. 
    2. Be cognizant of your current staffing levels. Use this time to evaluate those who are underperforming and base your future staffing levels on either training them up or managing them out through a layoff if one is needed.
    3. I have had multiple opportunities to be creative with professional staff cost cuts. You can keep your staff but temporarily restructure their duties, where they are working, and hours per week to temporarily reduce overall payroll burden.
  5. Review your Core Business Strategy
    1. Conduct a thorough margin review and determine where there are opportunities for improvement by cutting non-profitable sectors and/or products. Work smarter not harder….
    2. Focus your time and energy on your core competencies. Outsource non-core functions.
  6. Exit Strategies
    1. Does this downturn provide an opportunity to exit the business? Is there still value that another company may be interested in? 
    2. If not now, review your exit plan strategy for the future and update for current changes in the business environment. You may have to recast and re-think your final strategy.

Experience has shown me in navigating the complexities of business finance that challenges and successes are integral to the journey. The obstacles are real, however, with strategic planning, understanding, and determination, we’ve always been able to chart a path forward. Resilience is more than just pushing through; it’s about growing, adapting, and learning from each experience. As we continue to move forward, let’s draw from our shared knowledge and remain anchored in our mission. Here’s to the progress we’ve made and the continued growth ahead.

To hear more about my experience and to contact us to find out how we can help you, email me at  You can also check us out on the web at or call us directly at 518.693.7446.


CEFO Engagement: Transforming Financial Operations at a Chemical Manufacturing Plant


  1. Introduction

In today’s competive business environment, ensuring optimal financial operations is key for manufacturing companies. This paper recounts an engagement where focused financial intervention transformed the operations of a local chemical manufacturing plant.

  1. Background

When our team first approached this plant, it was clear that legacy systems and practices were impeding progress:

  • The plant was working with an outdated QuickBooks desktop system.
  • Inventory valuation posed challenges, leading to inaccuracies.
  • The high costs of factoring receivables burdened their resources.
  • Financial reporting was relegated to year-end processes and often contained material mistakes.
  • Despite these challenges, there was ambition in the owners’ desire to construct their own plant, requiring intricate financial planning and bank negotiations.

III. Actions Undertaken

Our engagement was rooted in understanding, strategy, and execution:

  • Balance Sheet Evaluation: Our primary step was to assess and cleanse the balance sheet of material misstatements, laying a foundation of trust for future financial negotiations.
  • Strategic Direction: We sought to divert from the high-cost invoice factoring system, aiming for more sustainable and cost-effective financing methods.
  • Projections & Forecasting: Leveraging data, we crafted a 5-year projection model predicting margin enhancements, attributing them to the anticipated efficiencies of the new plant and revised product SOPs.
  • Bank Collaborations: With accurate financial records, we introduced the company to three distinct banks. Their renewed interest was a testament to our strategic recalibrations.
  1. Outcomes Realized

Our methodical approach bore fruit:

  • Robust Financing Secured: 
  • $5 million for the new plant.

o A $750k equipment credit line.

o An adaptive credit line based on monthly accounts receivable and inventory.

o Discontinuation of Factoring: By transitioning from the factoring model, we unlocked substantial cost savings.

  • We were successful in acquiring an IDA grant, promising: o Ten years of tax savings.

o Deductions on mortgage recording tax.

o Sales tax waivers on materials.

  1. Conclusion

This engagement stands as a testament to the transformative power of strategic financial intervention. Through meticulous planning, active collaboration, and strategic foresight, we’ve ushered a local chemical manufacturing plant into a new era of financial and operational prosperity. They continue to prosper with a new equity partner supporting their efforts.

Valuations can help business owners plan for the future

If someone was to suggest that you should have your business appraised, you might wonder whether the person was subtly suggesting that you retire and sell the company. Seriously though, a valuation can serve many purposes other than preparing your business for sale so you can head to the beach. Think of it as a checkup that can help you better plan for the future. 

Strategic planning: Today’s economy presents both challenges and opportunities for companies across the country. Chief among the challenges is obtaining financing when necessary — interest rates have risen, inflation is still a concern and many commercial lenders are imposing tough standards on borrowers. A business valuation conducted by an outside expert can help you present timely, in-depth financial data to lenders. The appraisal will not only help them better understand the current state of your business, but also demonstrate how you expect your company to grow. For example, the discounted cash flow section of a valuation report can show how expected future cash flows are projected to increase in value. In addition, a valuator can examine and state an opinion on company-specific factors such as: Your leadership team’s awareness of market conditions, what specific risks you face, and your contingency planning efforts to mitigate these risks. As you go through the valuation process, you may even recognize some of your business’s weaknesses and, in turn, be able to address those shortcomings in strategic planning. 

Acquisitions, sales and gifts: There’s no getting around the fact that, in many cases, the primary reason for getting a valuation is to prepare for a transfer of business interests of some variety — be it an acquisition, sale or gift. Even if you’re not ready to make a move like this right now, an appraiser can help you get a better sense of when the optimal time might be. If you’re able to buy out a competitor or a strategically favorable business, a valuation should play a critical role in your due diligence. When negotiating the final sale price, an appraiser can scrutinize the seller’s asking price, including the reasonableness of cash flow and risk assumptions. If you’re thinking about selling, most appraisers subscribe to transaction databases that report the recent sale prices of similar private businesses. A valuator also can estimate how much you’d net from a deal after taxes, as well as brainstorm creative deal structures that minimize taxes, provide you with income to fund retirement and meet other objectives. In the eyes of a potential buyer, a formal appraisal adds credibility to your asking price as well. And if you want to gift business interests to the next generation in your family, a written appraisal is a must-have to withstand IRS scrutiny. 

Going the extra mile: You probably have plenty of other things on your plate as you work hard to keep your business competitive. But obtaining an appraisal is a savvy way to go the extra mile to get all the information you need to wisely plan for the future. 

Improving your company’s sales pipeline management

“It’s in the pipeline!” Business owners often hear this rather vague phrase, which may be good news in some cases or code for “don’t hold your breath” in others. Your sales pipeline, however, is a very real thing. Simply defined, it identifies and quantifies the prospective deals in progress at various stages of the sales process. Properly managing your pipeline can help your business avoid losses and meet or even exceed its revenue goals. 

6 commonly held stages: Many people confuse the sales pipeline with a sales funnel, but these are two separate concepts. A sales funnel is a visual representation of the sales process from the buyer’s perspective. It typically begins with someone becoming aware of a product or service and then moving on to interest, decision and finally action. The sales pipeline also has several commonly held stages, but they’re a bit different. Most models identify them as: Lead generation, Lead qualification, Engagement with the lead, Relationship building, Deal negotiation, and Closing. As you might suspect, volumes could be written and discussed about each stage of the pipeline. Suffice to say that effective sales pipeline management entails knowing precisely where each prospective deal lies among these six stages. Then you must push those deals, with appropriate pressure, through closing to become sales wins. 

From data to done deal: Like so many other things, sales pipeline management in today’s business environment is data driven. Succeeding at this task generally begins with identifying, calculating and tracking the metrics that provide the best insights into how to efficiently and effectively run your pipeline. These may differ somewhat depending on your mission and customer base, but common ones include: Average deal size (the sum of total revenue achieved in a given period divided by the number of sales wins for the same period), Sales win rates (the total number of sales opportunities created in a given period divided by the number of sales wins in the same period), Number of deals in the pipeline (simply the number of vetted, bona fide leads in the pipeline), and Sales pipeline value (the total estimated value of all active, viable opportunities currently in the pipeline). The purpose of these and the many other pipeline-related metrics isn’t to create data in a vacuum. Your objective is to channel this raw data into accurate sales forecasts that enable you to discern which customers and prospects offer the highest likelihood of success. From there, your sales team can devise broad strategies and specific tactics to move deals through the pipeline as quickly as possible. And while your salespeople are out on the front lines doing their thing, management and company leadership need to be able to keep a close eye on progress. 

For this purpose, many businesses invest in software that provides real-time info and “dashboard” visuals. Dedicated sales pipeline management software is available. However, if you already have a customer relationship management system, it may offer suitable functionality. Optimize, optimize, optimize. Your ultimate objective in sales pipeline management is optimization. By mindfully building, vigilantly monitoring and constantly improving your pipeline, you’ll improve the odds that your sales team will meet its goals and, in turn, your company will achieve its profitability objectives. 

Reviewing and adjusting your marketing strategy

As summer slips away and fall shuffles forth, business owners and their leadership teams might want to look at the overall marketing strategy they’ve pursued this year. How’s yours doing? It may not be entirely too late to make some adjustments to ensure your sales numbers wind up where you want them.

What success looks like:  The simple question you might ask regarding your marketing strategy is, “What are we trying to accomplish, and can we still get there?” (Okay, maybe that’s two questions.) Determine as specifically as possible what marketing success should look like this year. If the goal is indeed to increase sales, what metrics are you using to calculate whether you’ve achieved adequate growth? You should be able to lay out these metrics in a report or chart to help you determine whether your money has been well spent so far.

Many companies divide their marketing efforts between recurring activities and “one off” or ad-hoc initiatives. For example, they invest in advertising on certain websites, social media platforms, or in a magazine or newspaper. Then they look for special opportunities, such as a local festival or annual trade show. You should have data indicating whether these initiatives are paying off, too. Fine tune your efforts going forward by comparing inflows to outflows from various types of marketing. Will you be able to create a revenue inflow from sales that at least matches, if not exceeds, the outflow of marketing dollars?

Tracking methods:  It’s imperative to track sources of new business, as well as leads and customers. Be sure your staff is asking new customers how they heard about your company. This one simple question can provide invaluable information about which aspects of your marketing strategy are generating the most leads. Further, once you’ve discovered a lead or new customer, ensure that you maintain contact with the person or business. Letting leads and customers fall through the cracks will undermine your marketing efforts. If you haven’t already, explore (or upgrade) customer relationship management software to help you better track and analyze key data points. In addition to generating leads, marketing can help improve brand awareness. Although an increase in brand awareness may not immediately translate to increased sales, it tends to do so over time. Identify ways to measure the impact of marketing efforts on your business’s brand. Possibilities include customer surveys, website traffic data and social media interaction metrics. It can pay off. Sometimes business owners look at marketing as a sunk cost. You know you’ve got to allocate dollars to it, but the results may seem random and unpredictable. By refining your approach and tracking the right metrics, however, you can help ensure that your marketing strategy pays off. We can assist you in analyzing your marketing costs and picking the right ways to measure this mission-critical activity.

Call to speak with one of our advisors 518-693-7446 or check us out on the web


Why Outsource Your Finance Function?

Outsourcing certain functions for your business has been widely recognized as a business strategy since the 1990s.  Businesses such as Kodak began outsourcing its IT functions in 1989 as a result of identifying its core competencies and realizing IT was not one.

I opened CEFO Advisors (Strategic CFO Resources, LLC) in 2013.  I started building a team in 2018 as I saw opportunities for supporting my clients on a deeper level.  It was tough at first to introduce the concept to potential clients.  The concept was not widely used or understood until COVID changed the way the world thought about doing business. 

Outsourcing specific functions of your business is now seen as an effective strategy to accomplish duties that are not within the core competencies of your business at a fraction of the cost of hiring full time staff. 

The average worker clocks in 8.8 hours a day, but only a small portion of that time is spent working. According to studies, the time we spend being productive at work is 2 hours and 53 minutes or 39% of a working day.1 Time off for vacation, illness, and other non-work-related absences, often create a backlog of work.  Staff spend a good portion of their day catching up with co-workers, watching and interacting with social media, making personal calls, taking breaks, and performing other menial tasks that are not actual productive time.

 Outsourcing your accounting to CEFO Advisors is a strategic decision that many businesses are embracing for its undeniable advantages. There are considerable cost savings as noted above. Instead of bearing the overhead of an in-house team, companies can harness the economies of scale provided by specialized firms like CEFO Advisors. By entrusting these tasks to experts, businesses can ensure precision, consistency, and adherence to the latest industry standards.

Furthermore, this approach allows companies to sharpen their focus on core operations, knowing that their accounting intricacies are being managed by a team of seasoned professionals. A notable advantage is the seamless scalability of services. As the business landscape changes and companies grow, CEFO Advisor’s outsourced services adapt without missing a beat. By leveraging the latest accounting software and tools, we spare businesses from making substantial technology investments, allowing them to stay ahead of the curve without incurring additional costs. 

While there are considerations like ceding a degree of control and ensuring clear communication, these concerns are mitigated when partnering with reputable providers who prioritize client needs. Confidentiality, a paramount concern for many, is one we take extremely seriously, deploying robust security measures to protect sensitive financial data.

In essence, outsourcing, when done right, can transform a company’s financial operations, elevating efficiency, accuracy, and strategic focus. The minor challenges that come with this decision are far outweighed by the myriad of benefits it brings to the table. 

Call CEFO Advisors to schedule time to review your needs and how outsourced accounting functions could save you time and money while creating accuracy and efficiency.  518.693.7446 or check out our website at




Look carefully at three critical factors of succession planning

The day-to-day demands of running a business can make it difficult to think about the future. And by “future,” we’re not necessarily talking about how your tax liability will look at year-end or how you might grow the bottom line over the next five years. We’re referring to the future in which you no longer own your company. Succession planning is an important task for every business owner. And i t’s never too early to start thinking about three of the most critical factors. 

1. The involvement of your family Among the primary questions you’ll need to answer is whether you want to transfer ownership of the company to a family member or sell it to either someone already in the business or to an outside party. If your children are involved in the business, or there’s another logical successor from within the family, you’ll want to start mentoring this person long before you want to step down. An intrafamily successor should be someone who objectively has the education, training, experience and temperament to fill your shoes. Depending on the amount of support your replacement needs, it may take years for this individual to be truly ready. Also bear in mind that succession planning and estate planning are linked. You’ll want to create a clear, legally defensible ownership transfer plan while you also fund your retirement or next stage of life. In addition, you need an estate plan that equitably divides your wealth among family members who participate in the business and those who don’t. 

2. The market for your company If it appears unlikely that you’ll transfer ownership to a family member, you’ll probably want to sell your company. The primary question then becomes: Will there be a market for it when you’re ready to leave? If mergers and acquisitions are relatively common in your industry, you may have little to worry about. But if companies like yours tend to be a tough sell, you might be in for a long and perhaps frustrating process. To put yourself in a better position, start developing a list of potential buyers well before you’re ready to depart. These may include competitors, business associates and private equity firms. Essentially, you need to get a good idea of the “size and shape” of the market for your company so you can fine tune your succession plan. 

3. The structure of the transfer or sale If you do decide to name a family member as your successor, you’ll need to work with an attorney, CPA and perhaps other advisors to transfer ownership in a legally secure, tax-savvy manner that also accounts for your estate plan. On the other hand, if you’re going to sell the company (or ownership shares) to someone outside your family, you’ll need to structure the deal carefully. One option is to sell the business to your employees over time via an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). But ESOPs come with many rules and complexities. Alternatively, you might set up a purchase via an internal buy-sell agreement that stipulates your partners (if you have them) must buy your shares. Or you could sell to one of the potential buyers mentioned above — again, typical parties include competing businesses, perhaps someone you know through networking or private equity firms. The specifics of stepping down Granted, these three factors are general in nature. There will be many specifics that your succession plan will need to cover as you get closer to stepping down.

The CFO and Relationships During the Rise of AI

As a seasoned professional CFO, I have always held steady that building relationships are critical to the success of any CFO. I find myself now questioning how that has changed and how will it continue to change as AI becomes more prominent. How can AI take the place of a CFO, when so much of the relationship building is conversational. How does AI “read the room” so to speak?

Building relationships with key stakeholders requires active listening skills and showing interest in their concerns and priorities. It’s best to be in person so the CFO can read the non-verbal ques through body language, tone, and facial expressions. How will AI be able to read those non-verbal ques in the future? Empathy is also a key component of relationship building. It must be genuine. Can AI be genuine and show true empathy? Reliability and showing up and following through on promises are also a key to success. How will a machine be able to do this and really do it well?

So of course, by now, you have probably guessed what I decided to do…. I asked ChatGPT to tell me if AI could replace the CFO as the relationship builder. In very quick order and after 3-4 iterations of updating the tone and style to reflect that of myself, here is what I got back:

“In my years, I’ve seen the business landscape evolve, and AI is one of those game-changers. It isn’t about machines replacing the human touch, but rather giving us an edge. AI helps us ‘listen’ by analyzing the tone of our emails and communications. It’s like having an assistant that picks up on patterns – who prefers a call over an email or who consistently engages with certain topics.

It keeps the lines of communication open, reminding us of check-ins and even tailoring our messages to resonate more with each stakeholder. AI is also brilliant at gathering feedback, sifting through responses, and highlighting what truly matters.

In essence, while my experience and intuition drive my decisions and relationships, AI acts like a reliable aide, making sure I’m always a step ahead. It’s not about being tech-savvy; it’s about being smart with the tools at our disposal.”

Sounds pretty good, right? Makes sense. I couldn’t stop there. I really wanted to know if it could tell me the answer as ChatGPT:

“In the vast world of AI, I’m designed to help streamline and enhance tasks. While I don’t “feel” relationships in a human sense, I can certainly provide tools and insights to bolster them. I analyze patterns, offer reminders, help decipher tones in communications, and make sense of vast amounts of feedback. While I don’t replace the seasoned intuition and experience you bring, think of me as a digital aide, here to ensure you’ve got all the information and tools to nurture your relationships effectively.”

I was with some friends from the Entrepreneurs Organization last night and told them about this blog. It spurred an interesting conversation around change and the newest generation. I wasn’t called a dinosaur; however, I was reminded that my generation feels one on one contact and conversation is critical but is that true of the younger generation (those under 15?). This is the generation of the future. The CFOs of the future. They are learning so much faster and using tools that are so much more advanced than anything we had to learn on. Will they care about relationship building?

Here’s what ChatGPT had to say about this:

“Relationship-building remains crucial due to the inherent value of direct interactions, which foster teamwork and business opportunities. However, the rise of remote work and online communication preferences among younger generations suggest evolving methods of connection. While technology might change the way we interact, the importance of genuine professional relationships is likely to persist.”

For now, I continue to stand by my beliefs that success is still driven by strong relationships with all key stakeholders. AI can help with adding more value through data gathering, and research, but it does look like it will continue to change and add more and more value to our ability to strengthen those relationships even for generations to come.

What to expect from your CFO in the first 90 days

I had the unique opportunity in my career to work with businesses in different industries and of different sizes and ownership levels as a full-time CFO. Each business had different needs and complexities. The smallest business was a $15m educational training center and the largest was a manufacturer who generated over $200m in revenues.  The industries included alternative energy, retail and wholesale trade, macro-economic consulting services, marketing agencies, hospitality enterprises, internationally based service groups, among others.  Ownership levels were varied. Some were privately owned, and others were either publicly held or owned by private equity groups.

The one thing they had in common was a need for CFO leadership and guidance.  The differentiator was the actual amount of time they truly needed a CFO.  Most businesses under $50m can be easily supported with a fractional, outsourced CFO.  It really boils down the complexity of the business.

CEFO engages with businesses at all stages of development, revenue levels, and industries.  Solving critical pain points is our primary area of focus. Many of our engagements are long-term and fractional (part-time) in nature.  Some are for a defined period to solve a pressing issue, provide temporary leadership, or to assist with exit or acquisition opportunities.

The role of a CFO, whether full-time or fractional, is vital to the financial health and success of an organization. In the first 90 days, a CFO’s approach and actions can set the stage for long-term success and alignment with the organization’s goals. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect from a CFO during this crucial period:

  1. Deep Assessment: You can expect your CFO to conduct a thorough assessment of the current financial and operational landscape. This involves looking into staffing, financial systems, reporting mechanisms, internal controls, and processes.
  2. Clear Communication: The CFO should establish clear channels of communication with various departments, ensuring that there’s a flow of information that can aid decision-making.
  3. Setting Priorities: With insights from the assessment, the CFO should work closely with senior leadership, particularly the CEO, to define and prioritize short-term and long-term financial objectives.
  4. Stakeholder Engagement: Building relationships is key. By engaging with stakeholders, the CFO can better understand their needs, concerns, and insights, which will be invaluable in driving the organization’s financial strategy.
  5. Strategic Alignment: The CFO must ensure that the financial strategy aligns with the broader organizational goals. They should work closely with the CEO and other leaders to understand and enhance the company’s vision and mission.
  6. Team Evaluation: The CFO should evaluate the finance team’s capabilities, strengths, and areas of improvement. This might lead to training, restructuring, or hiring to fill any gaps.
  7. KPI Review: It’s crucial for the CFO to assess if the organization is tracking the right metrics. Key performance indicators (KPIs) should be relevant, actionable, measurable, and align with the company’s strategic goals.
  8. Financial Analysis: Your new CFO should be financially savvy and anxious to dive into the financial statements, internal management reports, and cash flow analysis to fully understand the current and historical trends. This will help identify any immediate potential financial risks or opportunities.
  9. Budgeting and Forecasting: The CFO should be very future focused. They should be diving into the budget and projections that are currently in existence. If lacking, or not available, he or she must start redefining the budgeting process, ensuring that the company is prepared for future challenges and opportunities.
  10. Actionable Plan: By the end of the 90 days, the CFO should have a clear, actionable financial plan that aligns with the company’s strategic objectives.


This first 90 days for a CFO, whether in-house or fractional, are pivotal. This period lays the foundation for the financial leadership and direction the CFO will provide. Regular check-ins, open communication, and collaboration between the CEO and CFO are the key to ensuring alignment and achieving the desired financial outcomes.

CEFO can help you determine the best fit:

  1. By assessing your current financial management needs: Understanding your pain points, challenges, and aspirations.
  2. Forecast future needs: Think about the direction in which your company is heading. Will you be entering new markets, launching new products, or considering mergers and acquisitions?
  3. Consider your budget: Determine what you can afford while ensuring you don’t compromise on the expertise required.
  4. Interview both full-time and fractional CFOs: Even if you’re leaning one way, understanding the value proposition from both sides can help solidify your decision.


Remember, the ultimate goal is to find the right financial leadership that supports your company’s growth, ensures compliance, and helps navigate challenges effectively. Whether that’s through a full-time or fractional CFO will depend on the unique needs and circumstances of your business.  To meet with one of our experienced CFO’s, please contact our office at 518.693.7446 or email Pat McGowan at or Amy Roman at

Cost containment: An important health care benefits objective for businesses

As the Fed continues to do battle with inflation, and with fears of a recession not quite going away, companies have been keeping a close eye on the costs of their health insurance and pharmacy coverage. If you’re facing higher costs for health care benefits this year, it probably doesn’t come as a big surprise. According to the National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, issued by HR consultant Mercer in 2022, U.S. employers anticipated a 5.6% rise in medical plan costs in 2023. The actual percentage may turn out to be even higher, which is why cost containment should be one of the primary objectives of your benefits strategy. 

Really get to know your workforce to succeed at cost containment, you’ve got to establish and maintain a deep familiarity with two things: 1) your workforce, and 2) the health care benefits marketplace. Starting with the first point, the optimal plan design depends on the size, demographics and needs of your workforce. Rather than relying on vendor-provided materials, actively manage communications with employees regarding their health care benefits. Determine which offerings are truly valued and which ones aren’t. If you haven’t already, explore the feasibility of a wellness program to promote healthier diet and lifestyle choices. Invest in employee education so your plan participants can make more cost-effective health care decisions. 

Many companies in recent years have turned to high-deductible health plans coupled with Health Savings Accounts to shift some of the cost burden to employees. As you study your plan design, keep in mind that good data matters. Business owners can apply analytics to just about everything these days — including health care coverage. Measure the financial impacts of gaps between benefits offered and those employees actually use. Then adjust your plan design appropriately to close these costly gaps.

Now let’s turn to the second critical thing that business owners and their leadership teams need to know about: the health care benefits marketplace. As you’re no doubt aware, it’s hardly a one-stop convenience store. Many companies engage a consultant to provide an independent return-on-investment analysis of an existing benefits package and suggest some cost-effective adjustments. Doing so will entail some expense, but an external expert’s perspective could help you save money in the long run. Another service a consultant may be able to provide is an audit of medical claims payments and pharmacy benefits management services. Mistakes happen — and fraud is always a possibility. By re-evaluating claims and pharmacy services, you can identify whether you’re losing money to inaccuracies or even wrongdoing. Regarding pharmacy benefits, as the old saying goes, “Everything is negotiable.” The next time your pharmacy coverage contract comes up for renewal, explore whether your existing vendor can give you a better deal and, if not, whether one of its competitors is a better fit. 

It’s doable … really Cost containment for health care benefits may seem like a Sisyphean task — that is, one both laborious and futile. But it’s not: Many businesses find ways to lower costs by streamlining benefits to eliminate wasteful spending and better fit employees’ needs.