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Every new year brings its own challenges, and 2015 is no different. Many businesses and business owners will face important changes in the year ahead that they must master to stay ahead of the game.

Here are some issues facing entrepreneurs in the first quarter of the year.

Work Place/Employees

  • If you live in one of the 21 effected states, including New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Ohio and Minnesota, you may already know that the minimum wage has increased. Some states increased the rate by $1 per hour. The national average is now $8 per hour, with the highest rate increasing to a little more than $9 per hour. Obviously, you will need to adjust compensation rates if you have employees affected by these increases. If you have employees who are paid hourly above minimum-wage rates, it might be time to adjust their pay scales in proportion to the new minimum wage, too. It is likely that the small business sector will reap substantial benefits from the anticipated $1.5 billion boost to the economy arising from higher minimum wages.
  • The deadline for uninsured individuals to enroll and select healthcare coverage is Feb. 15. Despite a few initial hiccups, the signing-up process has become much more efficient. The penalties for not participating are 2 percent of an individual’s annual income (or $325 for an adult and $162.50 for a child). There have been no changes to the rules concerning small business owners’ responsibilities regarding the provision of healthcare. Offering health insurance is not mandatory if you have fewer than 50 full-time employees. If you do provide health insurance benefits even if you are not obligated by law to do so, there are some attractive tax breaks and incentives. For instance, if you are providing coverage for a workforce of 25 or fewer employees, you might qualify for a tax credit for up to 50 percent of the contribution you make toward your employees’ premiums. You probably will want to discuss your options (which are outlined in detail in the Small Business Health Options Program at with your financial and tax advisors if you are contemplating offering your workers health insurance.

Business Trends

  • Some 60 percent of the time people spend on the Internet involves their mobile devices. This means if you have not addressed mobile devices in your website design and marketing strategy, you might want to do so now. Having a user-friendly website that is specially designed for mobile devices is crucial for customers who use the Internet to research products/goods or make purchases.
  • Facebook for businesses is not going away. Almost a quarter of the time people spend on mobile devices involve Facebook. Most businesses at the very least should have a Facebook page. Depending upon the nature of your business, it might be time to review the expanding advertising and marketing options Facebook offers to make sure your efforts include an appropriate allocation for social media.
  • Smart phone payment services (Apple Pay, Google Wallet, etc.) took off rapidly following Apple’s release of Apple Pay at the end of 2014. Consumers adapted quickly, and stores saw a higher-than-anticipated volume of transactions from the start. This growth will continue. Having the ability to offer customers the option of smart phone payment will be important – perhaps just as critical as accepting credit and debit cards and PayPal.

Change is one thing we can count on in an uncertain world. Business survival and success is dependent upon our willingness to embrace it and seize the opportunities change brings.