Executive Order Bonanza has Implications for Business

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

President Trump will complete only his third full week on Friday and has already left a lasting mark on how small businesses and government itself work with 20 Executive Orders. Through a series of presidential actions, Mr. Trump has touched on topics ranging from Immigration to healthcare. It’s time we took a deeper dive into what’s come down the pipeline and how it affects the small business community. Read the blog here.

The domestic policy action that was signed in the presence of a number of small businesses, is the “Two-for-One” Executive Order.

Here’s the rundown. The Executive Order has two parts – one aimed at Fiscal Year 2017 and one for Fiscal Year 2018:

  • FY17: “1 in and 2 out.” If a federal agency proposes a new regulation, it must recommend two regulations to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to be terminated. OMB, not the agency will have the final word on which regulations are eliminated.
  • FY18 and subsequent fiscal years: Agencies are ordered to offset costs of new regulations and the OMB is ordered to create a budget that limits how much a new regulation can rise.

On its face, this Executive Order spells relief for lenders and small businesses but there are a raft of unknowns still to be resolved. One question is when this directive will be implemented. For example, the administration’s OMB Director-designate Congressman Mick Mulvaney is undergoing a tough confirmation process and the timeline for his confirmation by the full Senate is still unclear.

Executive Orders generally provide broad guidelines rather than detailed plans on its execution. Questions to be answered are: What actually constitutes a “regulation?” Is it simply a single rule or a whole host of interwoven regulations that, together, provide guidance for an agency on an individual program or policy? What constitutes a “cost?” Will the benefit in a cost-benefit analysis be considered or will the analysis include only the cost? OMB is stocked with experts so we anticipate much more clarity on this as soon as the OMB director is confirmed.

Now, on to more straightforward presidential actions regarding President Trump’s infrastructure plans. One such action expedites environmental review and approval for high priority infrastructure projects and gives any Cabinet member or governor the unilateral ability to designate a project as “high priority” thus shortening the approval process, laid out in the NEPA law. He’s also issued a “Build the Wall” action which orders the Department of Homeland Security to begin building a wall along the U.S. and Mexico border using existing funds. It also authorizes the hiring of 5,000 new border agents. Congress will have to appropriate additional funds for completion because the current budget does not have funding for this project.

Additionally, there were two more Executive Orders issued almost immediately upon President Trump’s inauguration. One of the first actions signed by President Trump was an Executive Order that begins the process of repealing Obamacare. While it does not directly repeal the law, it directs federal agencies to give states, insurance companies and consumers maximum flexibility in complying with Obamacare until such a time as it is repealed. Full repeal and/or replace is going to take an act of Congress which has been openly wrangling with itself on whether to repeal, repeal and replace, or to “repair” the existing law. Regardless, this presidential action starts the ball rolling with respect to repeal of Obamacare while Congress considers its course of action.

The other significant action taken by the president instituted a federal agency-wide hiring freeze on all existing and open positions with exceptions for national security, military, and public safety.  The president intends this as a stopgap and allows agencies to reallocate to prevent public safety and national security from being adversely affected. The kicker, however, is that the memorandum explicitly prevents the hiring of outside contractors to prevent the circumvention of the spirit of the order. Given the number of waivers and exceptions allowed, it’s not altogether clear how this will work in practice, but it certainly lays down a marker that the president is serious about reining in the growth of the federal government.

Finally, on Feb. 3, the president signed two Executive Orders aimed at decreasing regulations for the financial industry; the first calling for a review and the scaling back of existing financial laws, including Dodd-Frank, and the second halting the implementation of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary rule, which was set to go into effect this April.

Dodd-Frank, enacted after the 2008 meltdown, was responsible for creating more stringent rules regarding bank capitalization, increasing compliance and reporting standards for banks, introducing stricter mortgage requirements, creating the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and curbing excessive risk-taking and the existence of too-big-to-fail institutions on Wall Street. Mr. Trump’s action on Dodd-Frank requires regulators to produce a study on financial rules within 120 days—appearing as more of a demand for a review than a complete dismantling of the law.

The fiduciary rule was intended to prevent consumers from receiving conflicted advice when it comes to retirement savings. The president’s order calls for the DOL to examine the rule to determine whether it may lead to the unintended consequence of making it more difficult for advisors to provide financial advice to their clients. However, embraced by much of the financial industry, this order is expected to move quickly compared to the order on Dodd-Frank.

These Executive Actions have the potential to clear the way for even greater gains by women-owned small business moving forward. As we reach for new heights in 2017, WIPP will be fully engaged with the Congress and administration to ensure that burdensome regulations harming the growth of women-owned small business are eliminated and we continue to be the robust engine powering the small business economy.

Reimagining Health Care

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

Affordability, predictability, and flexibility were three themes reiterated at the Feb. 7 hearing held by the House Committee on Small Business entitled “Reimagining the Health Care Marketplace for America’s Small Business.” It was held for the purpose of taking a look at the current marketplace and its recent difficulties, and to explore options to improve access, affordability, and consistency.

While no clear legislative path has yet been paved, many facts, figures, and ideas were floated around regarding how to ensure that small business is not an afterthought in the revamping of the healthcare system. Solutions presented and discussed at the hearing included tax credits for small business, across state line coverage, and Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements.

Here is more about the items discussed.

  • Tax credits for the self-employed: As the Tax Code currently stands, self-employed individuals are restricted from deducting their health insurance premiums. Small, self-employed business owners end up paying more for health insurance because their premiums are not treated the same for taxes as other businesses.

Leveling the playing field by giving these small businesses tax credits would improve affordability for small business owners, as well as expand the pool of coverage, according to Keith Hall of the National Association of the Self-Employed (NASE).

  • Across state line coverage: The number of insurers participating in the marketplace varies widely from state to state, as do the number of coverage plans. The lack of competition among insurers in the current exchanges decreases pressure to keep costs down.

Mr. Hall of the NASE believes that allowing for the sale of health insurance across state lines will boost competition, driving costs down. In order for this to happen, Congress will have to enact a health plan that will modify the existing law that inhibits the sale of health insurance across state lines.

  • Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs): A provision of a law signed into Congress last session allows small employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees that do not offer a group health plan to fund employee HRAs to pay for qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses and for non-group plan health insurance premiums, including plans purchased on the public health care exchanges.

Allowing small businesses to offer a bare bones plan and HSAs would allow individuals to decide the best choice for themselves and their families, according to Tom Secor of Durable Corporation, who testified on behalf of the National Small Business Association (NSBA).

This hearing was the first of a continuing series that will take place on the discussion of healthcare repeal and replacement. To read full written testimony from each witness here.

Gloria Larkin, WIPP’s National Partner of the Month – February 2017

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Gloria Larkin, president of TargetGov, has been a staunch ally of WIPP for years. She leads GiveMe5 webinars, responds quickly and effectively to WIPP’s calls to action, and is always on the lookout for new WIPP members. It’s thanks to people like Gloria that WIPP thrives!

Read our Q&A with Gloria to learn more about her and her work.

Q: Tell us a little about TargetGov and its mission

A: TargetGov is celebrating its 20th year in business in 2017! Our mission is to help small, mid-sized and large government contractors win business and aggressively grow their companies. Our clients have won over $3.9 billion in federal contracts in just the last five years.

Q: Have you always been an entrepreneur? If not, what inspired you to take the leap?

A: I have been both an employee and an entrepreneur. I took the leap 20 years ago because I wanted to do something that no one else was doing—help businesses see great success and increase their revenues with a targeted, proactive marketing and business development process.

Q: Have you encountered challenges you had to overcome as a business woman and if so, what have you learned from them?

A: The challenges have been constant, and access to capital is one of the biggest. Through the years, I have had several business loans to grow my business, and none of them were the amount I asked for. It’s an issue even to this day. In applying for a line of credit, I was offered less than half of what I thought it should be. I had the chutzpah to say exactly the amount I thought they should give me (more than double what they offered) and was pleasantly surprised that they agreed. In the past I wouldn’t have pushed, but now, I do.

Q: Do you have a success story that you are particularly proud of? Tell us about it!

A: My proudest moments are when our clients contact us and tell us of their awarded contracts and successful business growth. It feels like my children are successful and I am one proud parent! The first billion was a heady milestone. Now as we see the four-billion milestone coming this year, we are ecstatic about their success!

Q: What is the biggest lesson learned working with the federal government?

A: The biggest lesson is that the federal government market is constantly changing. The rules and regulations are burdensome, yes, but success is predicated on having a strategy and plan that addresses this constant change and adapts proactively, with a trackable, measureable and scalable process. Seeing it work in real life is extraordinary!

Q: Do you have any tips you would like to share with women pursuing federal contracts?

A: This is a demanding market and one must be well prepared, have a well-thought-out roadmap, the discipline to execute it, and measurable actions to track success. This is truly the market in which you can think BIG and see results. But it takes effort and knowledge; use the experts to help you!

Q: Tell us about your experience as a WIPP member. What resources and value has WIPP provided that has been helpful to you and your company?

A: WIPP has truly changed my life. I started getting involved as a committee chair, then learned how to talk to my Congress people. I participated in virtually every area WIPP works in and found a home on the procurement committee. Then I worked my way onto the government board, and then to Chair of the Educational Foundation. Thanks to WIPP, I have testified before the House Small Business Committee, and traveled to more than 15 states and had lifetime trips to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Japan and Oxford, England to speak or work with women in those counties. Working to start the GiveMe5 program, and supporting it through the years has been a great highlight. WIPP has impacted more than 30,000 women business owners through GiveMe5! And I am deeply honored to have many WIPP members as clients and heart-felt friends.

Santa’s Wish list for Eight Crazy Nights

By: Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

Being located in the Nation’s Capital and leading the advocacy team for WIPP, gives us the opportunity to wish for things uniquely Washington. So, in the spirit of the holidays, and maybe a little tongue in cheek, here’s our wish list for Santa with a nod to Hanukkah.

Santa, please bring us:

1. A Congress that knows how to make deals. This is also called bipartisanship but at the heart of the matter, it requires willingness to bend without compromising principles (or giving away the store). A lost art in Washington, straight party votes and initiatives lead to a “do-nothing” Congress. Perhaps the new President–elect, who wrote a book on deal-making, can assist.

2. More women in Congress. Building on the first wish, we know firsthand that women in Congress are inclined to be practical and open to working with the opposing party. The 114th Congress will start with a record 108 women. Santa, please get more women to run for public office.

3. Busting through the 5% women-owned small business goal for federal contracts. We know that record $$$ were awarded to women-owned firms in 2016, but there is so much work to do to ensure they have equal access to federal contracts. Santa, you may have to place some of your elves in federal agencies to make this happen.

4. Rethinking Red Tape. Federal contractors got hit with lots of new requirements, for example, the Executive Order called Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces. Although the contracting community pointed out many flaws in these Executive Orders, they were largely ignored. So, Santa, just get rid of these Executive Orders.

5. More WIPP accomplishments for 2017 than we had in 2016. Ok, we know this one’s on us. We have a pretty long list of 2016 accomplishments on the legislative and regulatory side but we want the sled to overflow. Because of our efforts, Health Reimbursement Accounts are an option for small employers, contracts through the WOSB procurement program increased to over $18 billion, there is a new Mentor-Protégé Program for WOSBs, and more!

6. The end of massive motorcades. This really is an inside Washington request, but the motorcades for the President and visiting dignitaries have now reached epic proportions and wait times have stretched to half an hour. Talk about impeding commerce. We could really use a little Santa ”stealth” when it comes to moving the president around the city.

7. A fresh look. We are in the final days of the 114th Congress and about to head into the 115th Congress. Out with the old and in with the new. Here’s hoping Congress hits the reset button to look at women’s business issues in a new way.

8. A stable federal budget cycle. Actions of Congress directly affect the behavior of the economy and the stock market. Congress has all the tools it needs to produce a budget and accompanying appropriations every year. These last budget minute shuffles and funding extensions damage the economy and really put small contractors in a tough place. We realize this is a really big ask. But our understanding is that Santa can work his magic anywhere.

WIPP’s advocacy throughout 2016 has yielded great results for women entrepreneurs, but our strong advocacy is never over. There is still much work to be done. Thank you for your support and happy holidays from the WIPP Policy Team!

Janice Hamilton: WIPP National Partner of the Month – December 2016

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Janice Hamilton

Interview with Janice Hamilton, CEO and founder of CarrotNewYorkContinue reading

WIPP leadership at NASDAQ

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WIPP joined with the NYC Department of Small Business Services to ring the NASDAQ opening bell on Friday, in honor of Small Business Saturday.

WIPP leadership at NASDAQ

Interview with NDC’s Jane Campbell, President of WIPP

jane-campbell1.Can you shortly describe your professional background? Is there any achievement/lessons learned that you are most proud of or would like to share with us?

I started my career in neighborhood development with the Volunteers in Service to America program (VISTA), worked with women’s advocacy organizations for many years, returned to neighborhood economic development and then ran successfully for the Ohio House of Representatives. My path as an elected official included 12 years in the legislature, 5 on the Cuyahoga County Commission and a 4 year term as Mayor of Cleveland. After serving as Mayor, I started my own business doing economic development consulting including advising Goodyear in the financing of their new Headquarters in Akron, OH. I also served as a fellow at the JFK School of Government at Harvard University. The real estate crash sent me back into the public sector as Chief of Staff to Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Staff Director for the Senate Small Business Committee.  Now I lead the Washington office of the National Development Council (NDC), an extremely creative nonprofit dedicated to bringing capital into underserved communities to create jobs, build affordable housing and create communities. NDC provides small business lending especially to women and minorities in underserved areas.

In every position that I’ve had the opportunity to hold I worked to be sure that women were full participants, that low income and minority communities were well served and that public private partnerships between government, business, and local community leaders were key to the engagement.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is that collaboration is vital to success and that women are incredibly hard workers.

2. When did you hear about WIPP for the first time and what resonated with you the most?

I learned about WIPP when I was Sen. Mary Landrieu’s chief of staff.  Sen. Landrieu chaired the Senate small business committee and we found WIPP to be one of the most effective coalitions on Capitol Hill. Later when I was the Staff Director of the Senate Small Business Committee under the leadership of Sen. Maria Cantwell I saw WIPP in action when several hundred women appeared to advocate for greater federal contracting opportunities.

3. What shaped your decision to become WIPP President?

The partnership that we are creating between the National Development Council(NDC) and WIPP is a new frontier of creative engagement.  For over 40 years NDC worked to bring capital into underserved communities by providing training in economic development finance, technical assistance to communities and economic development entities, the creation of Public private partnerships and lending to small businesses – especially those businesses owned by women and minorities. Our work with WIPP will strengthen both organizations as we pursue access to capital for women entrepreneurs, creating the strongest voice for women whose businesses are creating jobs and futures for key populations. 

I took the role as President of the WIPP coalition to strengthen this partnership and to provide the leadership needed for WIPP to move into the future while staying fully committed to my work as director of the NDC Washington office.  Knowing that Roz Alford is there as Managing Director to lead the day to day work of the office allowed me to say yes.

4. Do you have any particular vision for WIPP?

Our Coalition of businesses and associations can emerge from its already strong position to be clearly the voice of women entrepreneurs.  By building a strong national network of women in business and advocates for women in business the WIPP Coalition should be able to enhance opportunities by connecting policy makers and women business owners to craft meaningful policy that will enhance access to capital, improve contracting opportunities and create a fair tax code.

5. Do you have any message for WIPP members? 

The strength of the WIPP Coalition is the active engagement of our members – please join in our work!

Small Things Come In Big Packages

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May 2016 WIPP Works In Washington

Small Things Come In Big Packages

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Government Relations Team

 

In an epic week fueled by bipartisanship, the Senate Small Business Committee and the House Armed Services Committee put small business issues front and center in a way that was nothing short of amazing. This just goes to show that the “do-nothing Congress” does in fact do plenty when it comes to small business.

Let’s first talk about the Senate Small Business Committee. Members of the Committee introduced and are expected to pass three bills important to WIPP. One bill would extend the Small Business and Innovative Research program (SBIR) and a related program the Small Business Technology Transfer program (STTR) and included a mandate to do better outreach to women and minorities (thanks to Michigan’s Senator Gary Peters). The government funds innovative products and services through federal grants to bring the products to commercialization. Don’t know about it—look into it at: SBIR.gov. By the way, this is part of WIPP’s access to capital platform – so another accomplishment for our advocacy.

Are you a contractor? Then you might be interested in the introduction of The Small Business Transforming America’s Regions Act of 2016. If you aren’t aware of the HUBZone program, you should look into it. The government gives a bid preference to companies who invest in low-income areas. It could supplement the WOSB program you already belong to. At least check it out at SBA’s HUBZone Page.

Need capital? The Committee is expected to modernize the Microloan Program administered by the SBA. The program lends $50,000 and below to companies who need capital. In case you didn’t know it, there is a whole nationwide network of lenders who stand ready to lend, backed by the government’s guarantee against failure.

Now onto the House Armed Services Committee. This Committee and its counterpart, the Senate Armed Services Committee, prepare a bill each year, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that funds all military operations. It is a must-pass bill because the military requires certainty in funding. In order for the US to keep its competitiveness, it must have a strong and diverse industrial base. That’s where small businesses come in.

To that end, a whole section of the bill is devoted to small business contracting changes and strengthening resources for women entrepreneurs including women’s business centers. The bill:

 

  • Requires an annual report on the share of contract dollars awarded to small businesses without any exclusions
  • Establishes a pilot program that enables contractors to receive a past performance rating by submitting a request to the contracting officer and/or prime contractor
  • Requires the SBA to develop a list of no-cost programs that assist small businesses in compliance with Federal regulations.
  • Strengthens agency small business offices to recommend which small business set-aside programs should be used for each contract at their agency.
  • Requires commercial market representatives (CMRs) to assist prime contractors in identifying small business subcontractors and assess the prime’s compliance with their subcontracting plans
  • Adds HUBZone and SDVOSB to small business office oversight (previously not listed in statute but already happening in practice)

 

In case you do not remember, the Women’s Business Center reforms would raise the funding authorization level by 50% from $14.5M to $21.75M and increase grants to individual centers as well as streamline the program. Better program, better training for women.

How did all of this happen? Champions. The leadership of the House Small Business Committee, which passed the provisions now part of the NDAA, worked together hand-in-glove to assist our businesses. Chair Steve Chabot (R-OH) and Ranking Member Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) set the gold standard of getting things done without a partisan fuss. Similarly, the Senate Small Business Committee, under the guidance of Chair David Vitter (R-LA) and Ranking Member Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) worked together to introduce reforms good for small businesses.

The real story behind all of this activity is the power of small businesses uniting to ask for changes in contracting and better resources to succeed. Organizations, such as WIPP are the champions, walking the halls of Congress to press for better programs and fairness in contracting.

While I would agree that Congress is more partisan than ever before, there are bright spots. This past week was certainly one—all made possible by elected officials crossing party lines for the good of women-owned companies. If you ever wondered what your WIPP membership is paying for or if you need a reason to join WIPP, look no further. The advocacy WIPP provides on your behalf is the best return on investment you may ever find. It requires almost none of your time, requires a minimal monetary investment (dues) and you get a whole team dedicated to advancing your agenda to the Congress on a daily basis.

I call that value.

 

May 2016 WIPP National Partner of the Month – JeFreda Brown

JeFredaRBMay 2016 WIPP National Partner of the Month

JeFreda Brown, CEO, Goshen Business Group, LLC

 

WIPP sat down with JeFreda to hear a little bit more about her business and relationship with us:

Tell us a little about your company and its mission.

Goshen Business Group, LLC is a full service consulting firm. We provide financial and business compliance consulting services. Our focuses are compliance, risk management, and fraud. We service small to large sized organizations in the US and are looking to expand internationally. We provide our services through consulting and professional development training. We also can develop training courses.

Our mission is to educate organizations on their financial responsibilities. This includes helping them learn and understand federal, state, local, and industry regulations and laws to develop and maintain compliant financial practices.

 

Have you always been an entrepreneur? If not, what inspired you to take the leap?

Actually, when I was 7 I used to pray and tell God I wanted to be a business owner one day so I could be rich and help people. I left my job with the Federal Government in January 2011 to go full time into my business. I felt like I wasn’t using my full potential and that I needed to do more to help others. I have so much knowledge that can be very valuable to those who need it. My grandfather worked for the federal Government, but he also had his own construction business. He was my biggest inspiration growing up. Seeing him as an entrepreneur and how he helped so many people gave me the courage to take the leap.

 

What is your biggest lesson learned working with the Federal Government?

I would say the biggest lesson I learned while working with the Federal Government was to be very detailed. I was a Senior Auditor with Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA). We were trained to be very thorough and detailed. That has helped me tremendously in my business. I also learned how very important risk assessments and fraud detection are. I have taken those lessons and now teach them to my clients.

 

Do you have a success story that you are particularly proud of? Tell us about it!

I have several, but I can roll them up into one. I am always getting feedback from my clients letting me know how much they appreciate my help. They say, “we don’t know these things, and we need someone like you to help us and keep us out of trouble”. One client told me that she doesn’t think enough people recognize how much knowledge I have and how much I can help their companies. I have had so many clients who have received bad advice from others, but they found me, and I was able to fix things that were done incorrectly by others.

 

Tell us about your experience as a WIPP member? What resources/value has WIPP provided that has been helpful to you and your company?

I have truly enjoyed being a WIPP member the last 5 years. It has been a great learning experience for me. WIPP provides so many valuable resources for women owned businesses and professionals. The monthly webinars are awesome. I was even asked to do a webinar training a couple of years ago on DCAA Audits, and it’s now part of the contracting certification program. Not only am I learning what I need for my business, but I’m also connecting with and interacting with other amazing women. I’m building great business relationships with these women. WIPP has also shown me that they value me and trust me by selecting me to be a part of the Procurement Committee, Leadership Advisory Council, and now Treasurer on both the WIPP Board of Directors and Education Foundation Board of Directors. You have to be involved to get value out of WIPP. You have to actively participate in the things WIPP offers. No other organization for women offers what WIPP offers, in my opinion. WIPP has a reach across the globe, and it’s growing more and more. It will soon be up there in the ranks like huge international nonprofits such as UNICEF.

Twitter: @GoshenBG

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GoshenBG/

Last Chance! Vote for WIPP Leaders in the 2015 Small Business Influencer Awards

Vote-120x240-aWe are proud to announce that Barbara Kasoff (WIPP President Emeritus),  Ann Sullivan (WIPP’s Chief Advocate) and Dr. Sharon Hadary (WIPP Leadership Advisory Council Member) have been nominated for the 2015 Small Business Influencer Awards in the category of Leaders.

The Small Business Influencer Awards honor those who are influential to small businesses in North America, through the products, services, knowledge, information, or support they provide to the small business market.  The Awards are designed to recognize the unsung heroes of small businesses – those who support and encourage entrepreneurs and small business owners, and help them achieve success and stay successful.

Please cast your vote by November 5, 2015 in support for one of these fantastic WIPP leaders:

The Awards can be found on the Web at: http://influencers.smallbiztrends.com/

Don’t forget to vote!