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Vote ‘Yes’ for Initiative 1082

I just returned from a business conference in Washington DC. In all my travels, this is the first time I have spent more than a few hours here, and although I didn’t get the chance for serious exploring, I was able to take in some of the sites. Regardless of your impressions of what’s happening in the country, or your politics, it’s still inspiring to visit DC and to think about all that has occurred in the shaping of our country.

The discussions around politics today often center on the frustrations about the polarization, and resulting paralysis, that seems to have gripped the legislative process. Too often, key discussions tend to divide down party lines, with each side seemingly more interested in promoting or protecting political ideology than enabling legislation that will move the country forward.

A critical issue currently is increasing jobs, especially among small businesses. Small businesses are the heart of the US economy. Small business employs the majority of Americans and pays the majority of taxes. This year’s November 2 election in Washington State has a number of critical initiatives being put before the voters that could have dramatic impact on jobs and the small businesses that create them. One in particular is important to me and to Parker Smith & Feek. Washington State’s Initiative 1082 would end the Department of Labor & Industries monopoly on workers compensation. I support the initiative and urge you to seriously consider the issues.

Washington is one of only four states in the country that does not allow private insurance companies to compete with a state-sponsored fund in providing workers compensation coverage. To put this in perspective, PS&F provides our Washington clients with property, auto, liability, healthcare and many other kinds of insurance coverage – but not workers compensation. By contrast, our Anchorage office provides a full range of services, including workers comp, and is able to serve all our client’s needs there.

The ‘no’ side in the 1082 debate would have you believe that if the initiative passes, insurance companies will take advantage of injured workers in Washington and not pay claims. There isn’t any evidence to remotely suggest this is true. As I mentioned, 46 states currently operate with an open competition system and insurance companies pay millions of claims each year. The best systems exist where there is a strong state fund option as well as private insurance and where competition has made everyone better. These programs are characterized by excellent safety education and strong claims management, with the result being fewer serious injuries, injured workers being returned to gainful employment more quickly, and lower workers compensation rates for everyone.

Unfortunately, the debate over Initiative 1082 is predictably falling down party lines. This should not be a D v R issue, but should be about what creates a healthy, vibrant environment for employees and employers – especially small businesses. A vote for 1082 will create much needed competition and will inevitably improve the operations of L&I’s State Fund. Government isn’t the problem, per se, and certainly government isn’t evil. But government is best at oversight and regulation, ensuring that the rights of all are protected. The proposed legislation will maintain government’s appropriate role as a watchdog and will allow them to continue to compete in the open market.

Please, consider a ‘YES’ for Initiative 1082, and let the competitive marketplace drive innovation and cost reduction, making Washington a better environment for business and jobs.

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An eye opening opportunity

Last week, on September 24th, 16 individuals from Parker, Smith & Feek’s Bellevue office participated in the King County United Way Day of Caring, partnering alongside industry friends, Alaska National. Our firms’ combined efforts provided a day of labor and support to two local organizations, the North Seattle Family Center and our local chapter of the Humane Society. While some of our team collected pet food contributions from shoppers at local grocery stores, the bulk of our group got busy painting walls and reorganizing resource materials at the Family Center.

Although the groups worked hard and were physically exhausted by the end of our day, I think we all walked away feeling buoyed by our contributions. So tangible – a real before and after shot coming to life right before our eyes.

I am reminded of a quote by John Heywood, “Many hands make light work”. How true this is. In a mere five hours, our teams had managed to paint room after room at the Family Center; transform a resource center into a more welcoming and user friendly environment; and collected a significant amount of food and funds to care for the numerous animals who find their way to our local shelters.

We also saw firsthand the good work these organizations perform day in and day out with limited resources and could see how vital volunteerism is to their success. I know I personally walked away that evening thinking about how I could help the Family Center even more and am grateful to the Day of Caring program for having opened my eyes.

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Join us for Parker, Smith & Feek’s first ever Health Reform Tweet Chat

On October 6th 2010 Parker, Smith & Feek will be hosting its first ever Health Reform Tweet Chat.

Join us to discuss what "Healthcare Reform will mean for your organization".

To find out how to join the discussion and for more information visit: http://www.psfinc.com/heath-reform-twitter-chat

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Healthcare Reform Hits Main Street

The following video from the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation provides a good overview of the Healthcare Reform Legislation. Though some of the content can be debated, we think this is a good primer and we welcome you to contact us to discuss it.

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Get motivated by using Social Media

One of our employees was telling me today, how he uses Twitter to log his training for an upcoming Marathon. When I asked him why he uses Twitter, he said for “accountability mainly, but it also gives me the motivation I need”. Knowing that the information is public, and that anyone could find it, gives him extra motivation to run faster and train more consistently.

This got me thinking. Our employee is motivated by competing with friends. So what motivates you? Is tracking goals and seeing the result enough or do you need some other form of motivation?

Let us know by leaving a comment. Click here to comment.

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The financial environment…then and now….

On Friday September 10th, the Ted Spread closed with a value of 16.03 bps. Two years ago, on September 10th, 2008, the Ted Spread closed at 117.97 bps, and just five days later, after Lehman Brothers collapsed into bankruptcy, the spread closed at 201.38 bps. The global financial credit crisis tsunami was underway and soon reached ‘100 foot rogue wave’ proportions. The credit melt down moved rapidly toward its’ peak on October 10th when the Ted Spread reached 463.62 bps.

The Ted Spread is considered an indicator of credit risk. It is the difference between three-month futures contracts for U.S. Treasuries (which are considered risk free) and three-month contracts for Eurodollars (which reflect the credit ratings of corporate borrowers) having identical expiration months. The Ted Spread has historically remained in a range of 10 to 50 basis points.

In the autumn of 2008 the economy was in frenzied freefall as liquidity in the markets disappeared. The Equity markets which had been at an historical high in late 2007 when the Dow Jones industrial average reached 11,400 were now at 8,400, and on the way to a 6,600 low in March 2009. Consumer and business spending declined sharply and employment collapsed. The nation’s unemployment rate went from 6.2% in September 2007 to 9.5% by June 2009.

On October 13th 2008, then Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulsen and Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernake and their consortium took dramatic action. Nine major domestic bank CEO’s were called to meet that weekend and all were asked to sign on to the ‘solutions’ term sheet with no CEO allowed to leave until all had penned their names to the ‘agreement’. The markets swayed and strained- Merrill Lynch, Wachovia, Countrywide, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were deemed unsinkable and ‘life boated’ by Bank of America, Wells Fargo and the U.S. Congress. A few weeks after the 2008 November general election General Motors and Chrysler were deemed too unionized to fail and transformed into Government Motors, auto executives were dismissed and company bond holders were considered forfeitable capital providers.

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The secret to insurance

We in the insurance industry always wonder if our clients actually read their insurance policies. I realize this is not something that appeals to most normal people, but for most of us it is a necessity, whether it is in our personal or professional lives. With our personal lives, it’s fairly straight forward. We have property and car insurance for our belongings and liability insurance in the event a third party is injured on our property. However, within an organization, there can literally be hundreds of different risk exposures. As your insurance broker we spend an incredible amount of time examining the possible exposures you face and offer insurance and other risk transfer solutions that meet your individual financial and risk tolerance requirements. But in today’s economy it is not all that uncommon for a business to move into new markets and even entirely different businesses that add a completely new set of exposures. Such decisions are often time sensitive and your broker may not be notified in time or simply overlooked, so we are unable to do a full review of the new exposures. The secret I always tell my clients’ is that if they don't do anything with your insurance policies, at least read the exclusions. A simple review of the exclusions can often surface any unknown exposures or raise questions about if you are covered for a certain type of event. So before moving into new markets or businesses spend a few minutes and read over the exclusions in your policies and then communicate with your insurance broker/partner.

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Looking for the positive.

This week saw an abrupt change in the weather here in Seattle. Long gone are the 90 degree temperatures of summer and we have now settled down into the low 60’s that indicate that winter is just around the corner. Financial and economic reports over the last month have also brought new perspective to where our economy may be headed.

While news of slowing job growth has been alarming for most, I always try to look for the positive. A key indicator of global economic activity, and believe me when I say this, is the use of shipping containers.

There has been a sharp upturn in the use of shipping containers in 2010 as reported by Moller-Maersk and DP World, two of the world’s leading container companies. The upturn in traffic of goods to and from developed and emerging economies has been exceptionally strong and a surprise to shipping analysts. This indicates that international trade is on the rise, money is changing hands and there is demand for these goods.

With so much gloom around as we head into winter, we get consumed by the negative and forget to look at the positive.

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Every company is different

One thing that I have seen over the last 18 months is that when it comes to wellness, every company is different. One wellness challenge or initiative may work for one company, but not achieve the desired results for another.

The key is to adapt each initiative and challenge to fit with your own company’s culture and resources. It also helps to empower your employees to use their creative side, and their talents that may not be necessarily related to their job function.

I have one client that has amazingly talented singer and video editor within their committee, and to launch their programs they produce these high quality videos to get there staff energized. While not every company has those skills many companies have other skills that can be equally impressive; Graphic designers, musicians or even budding actors that could roam the office hallways to promote an upcoming wellness event.

If you use and appreciate their talents, they too will feel energized and become your leading wellness cheerleaders.

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10 Years – So What?

Among the daily emails that urge you to act, there is the occasional message that causes you to think. I had this experience when I read the invitation for the annual potluck luncheon for employees that have been with our firm for 10 years or more. Ten years. A decade. While I have been in the over-10 club for more than a decade, the invitation really caught my attention this year and particularly when it was pointed out to me that 67 of my colleagues were also in the club. That translates to 37% of our workforce! Now, while I didn’t do any research to confirm this, this seemed to be a very high percentage, and as one of the owners of the firm, and an enthusiastic promoter of our business, I was quite proud of this statistic. I did conduct a quick internet search to see what the average job tenure was in the U.S. In a report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, as of 2008, workers over the age of 25 had been in their current job for just 5.1 years. Even more interesting was that this figure is almost unchanged from the average tenure in 1983, which was 5.0 years.

So a decade on the job IS a big deal. Why then, have more than a third of us stayed at Parker, Smith & Feek for 10 years or more? Is it the money? Well sure, our pay is important but I suspect there are really multiple reasons and many of those unique to the individual. The one reason I think all of the 10-year club would agree is important to their careers is the stability and predictability of our company and its culture. We are continuously transitioning our leadership and ownership to younger generations with the singular purpose of perpetuating our firm for years to come. We will be celebrating our 75th anniversary in 2012 and have every reason to believe that we will be here for milestone celebrations in the future.

I’m sure our Human Resources folks could cite a variety of statistics to demonstrate the advantages of a long-tenured workforce, but common sense says it’s just good for business. We have the obvious savings in recruiting and training but the real benefit is the opportunity we have to develop long term relationships with our clients. They benefit from the expertise that aggregates in career employees and can quickly develop trust and confidence in our advice and counsel.

Our employees receive a nice service award for their 10 year anniversary. They in turn give to Parker, Smith & Feek a greater gift – the experience and knowledge they share each day with their clients and each other.

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The secret to our success

I just finished reading Michael Lewis’ “The Big Short”, which deals with the fascinating and ultimately devastating details of the subprime mortgage trading industry and how it brought our financial system to its knees. Lewis describes how financial institutions created and sold worthless derivatives simply because they could make a lot of money doing it – at the expense of their investors and inevitably many of their own organizations. They were fueled by greed and hubris, with little thought or concern for anything else.

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Cloud Computing

If you follow technology trends you have probably heard how “cloud computing” is going to take over the world. Cloud computing is an exciting concept that is changing the computer industry, but because it has been with us so long and in so many forms it is difficult to differentiate from what we are already doing and how it might truly change systems already in place.

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