SHE SAYS:

Open enrollment is the time to enroll eligible employees who are not currently part of your group plan or to make changes from your current plan to a new plan.  Open enrollment changes become effective January 1, 2012 therefore, now is the time to review your current plan and make necessary changes.

The turmoil in the health care industry that started last year due to Obamacare continues as carriers and State Departments of Insurance are still trying to comply while balancing their bottom lines.  Some carriers are pre-emptively beginning to implement components of it in their Underwriting Guidelines in 2012 even though it won’t be mandatory until 2014.

Despite underwriting constraints, limitations and perhaps changes in how you will obtain health insurance that will come with the new health care laws, USFSB has a solution for you.  Through an enhanced relationship with one of its carriers, Capital District Physician Health Plan (CDPHP), USFSB is offering a wide range of health insurance plans with competitive prices to our members within 26 counties in New York State through CDPHP.   In addition to these CDPHP plans, we continue to offer quality plans with many other carriers.

As you begin to look for new options, please search for plans by going to www.usfsb.com where you will find all of the information you will need to facilitate a change.

Click on the Small Business Insurance Clearinghouse link and enter your zip code to view the plans available to you.  Select a plan and then to view and print a summary of benefits or application click on View Details or Fill out Application.

As always, we are here to help you! 

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

SHE SAYS:

To some, this may seem like a strange concept and I have to admit that at first I was a little reluctant to travel to that part of the world.  However, we recently returned from a beautiful two week trip in Israel with two of our friends.  Our flights were booked last January and over the next few months we developed the itinerary which included booking a private guide for six days of the trip.

Given the history of that part of the world we were entering, I had the impression that we might feel unsafe at times.  I expected to see military or police presence everywhere.  This impression could not have been more incorrect.

Upon arrival in Tel Aviv, I quickly learned that the city and the people were more westernized than I expected and I had the feeling that we could have been in any large city in the U.S. if not for the fact that we could overhear conversations in Hebrew.  Almost everyone we encountered during the course of our trip spoke English so we never felt disconnected when communicating.  We never felt unsafe in any place we visited and we enjoyed every moment of the trip.

A view of Tel Aviv from our hotel

A view of Tel Aviv from our hotel

Our travels started in Tel Aviv where we spent the first few days on our own getting to know the city and experiencing some wonderful cuisine.  We visited a local market called the Carmel Market and visited Jaffa, a 4000 year old port area.  We also visited the Tel Aviv Port which is now thriving with shops, restaurants and activities to name just a few of our experiences.

After the first few days in Tel Aviv, our private guide picked us up.  Having a private guide was a wise decision.  He was both knowledgeable and friendly and, in many ways, he is the reason that our trip was a great experience.  He spent the next six days with us as we traveled to the northern coast of the Mediterranean to see the amazing Roman ruins in Caesarea and to visit Old Akko.  We drove east through the Galilee and spent two nights in Tiberias.  With Tiberias as our home base for a couple of days, we visited Tzfat, the Banias Nature Preserve, Golan Heights Winery and a former military bunker on Mt Bental overlooking the Syrian border.

On our way to Jerusalem, where we spent four days, we visited Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee, Beit She’an (another site of Roman ruins) and Beit Alpha to see a preserved 1500 year old mosaic floor that was part of an ancient synagogue.  Once we were in Jerusalem, we took a few side trips that included climbing Masada and floating in the Dead Sea.

A view of Jerusalem from Mt of Olives

A view of Jerusalem from Mt of Olives

The Wailing Wall - Old Jerusalem

The Wailing Wall - Old Jerusalem

Jerusalem was another surprise for me.  I anticipated that all of Jerusalem was a small walled city.  The walled city is in fact only about two square miles and the rest of the city sprawls out about 50 square miles over a very hilly region that quickly gives way to a stark desert landscape.  Jerusalem is a rare blend of cultures, religions and history.  Old Jerusalem is made of the Jewish Quarter, the Arab Quarter, the Christian Quarter and the Armenian Quarter.

The people in each area go about their everyday lives and seem respectful or, at least, tolerant of each other.  To outsiders like us all seemed peaceful, but even as we toured this beautiful land, it was clear that the peaceful veneer is sometimes very thin.

After four days of soaking up all of the historical and religious culture we could in Jerusalem, we rented a car and drove south through the Negev Desert where we soaked up some sun at the seaside resort of Eilat on the Red Sea.  During our two day stay in Eilat, we took a day trip to Jordan to see Petra and Wadi Rum, which was a wonderful and unique place to end our trip.

Our trip took us to almost every corner of Israel and was filled with many surprises, beautiful scenery, great food and so much history.  Of all of the trips we have taken, this vacation in Israel was one of the very best!

A view of Eilat from our hotel

A view of Eilat from our hotel

Nebatean carvings in Petra, Jordan

Nebatean carvings in Petra, Jordan

 

SHE SAYS:

Am I the only one that feels misrepresented as either a 99%er or a 1%er?  When did this country turn into 1% rich and 99% poor?  How did the typical middle class or upper middle class family that clearly falls into the 99% category as defined by Occupy Wall Street, suddenly become the wealthy enemy?  I am neither one of the 1% nor am I one of the 99%.  Why do these people think they are representing everyone?

The Occupy Wall Street gang seems like an ill-conceived gathering of confused and demoralized people who would be better served if they concentrated on being productive in their own lives.  It seems to me that people have become too good for themselves.

Instead of an attitude of ‘I can do anything’, many young people today seem to think that they are entitled to a job making $250,000.00 immediately out of college.  Gone are the days of working your way up in a company because many don’t even see themselves working for any company for more than just a few years.  If the job seems ‘beneath them’, it isn’t even considered as an option.

In my mind, this creates a domino effect on the economy when no one wants to do the lower level jobs whether they are in a large corporate office or working at a fast food counter.  Many of these young people may have been spoiled by their parents’ economic status because they don’t or can’t understand that their parents were once young and struggled to support themselves.  Success is about planning, sacrificing, saving, and more planning.  Wealth is sometimes achieved with this success.  Now this is something to be ashamed of?

These people should be ashamed of themselves.  Look around the world at some of the countries where citizen groups have toppled cruel and vindictive leaders to try to create a more independent and free society.  They are looking for democracy and freedom, something that the Occupy Wall Street protesters have and take for granted and worse yet, use their freedom to whine and cry about how unfair their world is.

Maybe they should pitch a tent in one of these countries in the Middle East and they will see real oppression and realize just how fortunate they are already.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

SHE SAYS:

When I looked up the definitions of a Type A personality, I found these two: “A behavior pattern characterized by tenseness, impatience and aggressiveness, often resulting in stress related symptoms.”  “A temperament marked by excessive competitiveness and ambition, an obsession with accomplishing tasks quickly, little time for self-reflection and a strong need to control situations.”

Type B personality definitions state: “A form of behavior associated with people who appear free of hostility and aggression, and who lacks a compulsion to meet deadlines, and are not highly competitive at work or play.”  “A behavior pattern categorized by a relaxed manner, patience and friendliness.” 

There are volumes of research on each type and how they interact, but this is about Joe and I and how we operate USFSB and manage to live together.

I am a very patient person.  I am accepting and almost always find the good in people whether it is people I know or strangers.  I seemingly fit into most of the Type B personality, but not all of the characteristics.

Joe is generally not a patient person.   He tends to be more critical than I am and less likely to forgive mistakes.  He is definitely a Type A personality.

As has been mentioned, Joe and I have very different styles in the way we operate USFSB and in the way we view life in general, yet, even though we possess many opposite traits, in many ways that may be why we have been able to work so well together.   Our management styles, organizational skills and our personalities are very different from each other.  I think that our differences complement each other and have helped us to be able to work together as a team for the past 32 years in our personal and family life as well as in our business for the past 13 years since I came to work at USFSB.

It is challenging to live with someone who is far more impatient than I am.  There are sometimes the discussions in the middle of the night, the endless lists of things-to-do, and repetitive questions, just to name a few of the things Joe and his impatience bring to the table.

Joe will not usually admit it, but I can be the voice of reason when he gets too wound up and I tend to put the brakes on when he rushes to judgment in order to solve every problem the instant one arises.   I believe that our differences help make us a good team and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

Our blog schedule was disrupted this week by the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.  However, Annemarie was able to send us this posting while on a planned trip to the West Coast.

SHE SAYS:

Some people are doers.  Others stand by in the sidelines waiting for someone else to make decisions and take action.  As business owners, if we have our choice of which type of personality to choose as an employee, it is the decision maker who takes action.

As we readied for a long planned three week trip to the west coast, Hurricane Irene was heading toward the Capital District in New York.  Our flight was scheduled to leave at 2:30 on Saturday afternoon and Irene was expected that night.  Our flight left on time and Irene arrived as expected between Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Our son who lives in New York City arrived home on Friday to escape the possible flooding and power outages there.  We were lucky to have him home to keep an eye on things after we left.  We are fortunate that Irene only caused a short power outage at our home.  On the other hand, our office building is located in the Stockade area of the City of Schenectady and is only blocks from the Mohawk River.

This brings me to the type of employee we are so fortunate to have in charge of operations in our absence.  On Sunday, when Kristie heard that the City ordered an evacuation of the Stockade, she took it upon herself to go to the office to determine if we were in danger of flooding and prepared to move our servers and computer equipment if necessary.

On Monday morning, she and our IT Director arrived at the office early and spoke with the Fire Chief in charge to determine if we were in danger of flooding.  Luckily, we were not, however, by that time we lost power and internet service which means we were cut off from our members by phone, email, blog postings and our website.  Our staff was called off and the office remained closed. A couple of hours later Kristie returned back to the office and at that time located our mailman and obtained our mail.

Timing is everything.  Monday was the 29th of the month and we only have until the 31st to finalize payments and cancellations before running billing on the 1st of the month.  This caused Kristie to spring into action, again.  She located someone who was able to deliver a generator so that on Tuesday, at least, some operations could be completed and our staff could work some of the day.

As of this writing, Tuesday was a productive day for our staff.  Kristie was able to get our member database and the phone system running by generator.  Our cable company who provides our internet (email, ability to send blog postings and website) could only tell us that we would hear back from them in 2-72 hours.  The power company told us that we may have power by Thursday at 11PM.  Normally, Kristie does not take time off when we are out of the office, but she was supposed to participate in a social event this week that had been postponed from an earlier date.  Under the circumstances and needless to say, Kristie cancelled her obligation to that event to be in the office.

We learned that on Wednesday morning, our power was restored.  Internet capabilities didn’t get restored until Thursday afternoon.

If you are reading this blog, it is because we are ‘back in business.’  We had to wait our turn like the thousands of others without power and internet, but our thanks go to Kristie who found a way to continue our operations with quick thinking and decisive action.

Kristie to the rescue!

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

There will be no blog post on Monday due to the Labor Day holiday.  We will return to our normal format on Wednesday, September 7th. Enjoy the holiday weekend!

SHE SAYS:

Joe is always striving for perfection in every aspect of his life; at home, at the office, on vacation, and worst of all when he becomes a critic of the human condition.  I always tease him that his mother never should have told him that he was perfect although I am exaggerating a little, because even his mother didn’t really believe he was perfect.  I think that no matter what you are told, your personality is what it is and Joe’s type-A personality makes him constantly strive for perfection.

As Joe mentioned, his drive for perfection is difficult for him and those around him.   It can be frustrating for someone who wants perfection but knows that it never really can be attained.  When Joe sets his mind to accomplish something, he becomes single-minded in that task whether it is very small or really big.   Although he has gotten better about accepting the shortcomings in himself and others, it hasn’t always been an easy road for him and those around him.

When Joe became an attorney, he spent most of his career not having to answer to anyone but himself, therefore, his work product was his own and he always worked hard to be sure he was satisfied with its outcome.  There were times he would tell me that he would need to spend most of the weekend in the office to write a brief, answer or complaint so weekend plans might be put on hold in anticipation of his long hours in the office.  However, he would return home in just a few hours because, in reality, it was practically written in his head before he even arrived at his office so putting it on paper was just a formality.

At USFSB, Joe delegates much of the work to our staff, but we have all accused him of being a micromanager as he spends some of his time looking over our shoulders in his quest for perfection.  This can tend to be counterproductive when an employee feels like they are under a microscope and nervous that he is watching.

We like to say that Joe is on a ‘need-to-know’ basis in the office.  Every day we all do our jobs, resolve conflicts, deal with health insurance carriers and vendor partners and only involve Joe when necessary.  That way, he can tend to his responsibilities and not worry about the day to day problems that inevitably appear to be imperfect.

I always try to tell him that sometimes ignorance is bliss, but he just can’t seem to subscribe to it!

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

We recently reached the first anniversary of starting our blog.  We have written a combined post to share our thoughts and reflections on our first year of blogging.

HE SAYS:

It has been a little over one year since Annemarie and I started writing our blogs for USFSB’s website and, as with everything in life, it has evolved from what we originally imagined.

Annemarie and I always realized that even among small businesses it was somewhat unusual for a husband and wife to work together.  It wasn’t until my son, Joseph, asked me to help him with a paper he was writing about family businesses for his college entrepreneurship class that I focused in on the specific issues of family owned businesses that were operated by a husband and wife team.  It was through this experience that I acquired a better understanding of just how unique it was for a husband and wife to work together and how such arrangements were froth with both pitfalls and benefits.

A little over one year ago, Annemarie and I began discussing the possibility of writing about our experiences operating USFSB together in the form of a blog to be part of our business website.  I thought it would be a good idea to share these experiences with our members since I felt that whether or not they were husband and wife teams they still could relate to our situation.

Annemarie also thought it was a good idea, but was concerned that we would soon run out of things to write about after we covered the details of how and why we operate USFSB together.  At first, I disagreed with her but she proved to be right.  Before publishing the blog on the website, we wrote a detailed narrative of the circumstances that brought each of us to USFSB and our different points of view regarding running a business; however, it quickly became apparent that going forward the actual day-to-day activities of operating USFSB would be of little interest to anyone. 

Over the past year, I have written about business, legal, and financial topics, but, as Annemarie puts it, this was never meant to be a how-to-run a business blog or a business advice blog.  In addition to those practical topics, Annemarie encouraged me to also express my opinions of which I have many as well as write about my personal experiences and observations on life and that’s how the “He Says, She Says” blog took on its current persona.

When I write any of my blogs, I always run it by Annemarie for her review and ask her if she thinks it is “blog worthy”.   Annemarie has become my sounding board and, at times, my unofficial censor when she thinks I have gone too far or my effort was simply not good enough.   As it turns out, even though I write most of the blogs, Annemarie and I, as we do when operating USFSB, work well together as a team when it comes to our writing efforts.

SHE SAYS:

We have just passed the one year mark of the USFSB “He Says, She Says” Blog.  As I reflect over the past year, I would like to share what I have learned.

Blogging can be fun and is a good way to express one’s self.  I have learned that even though I do not particularly enjoy writing, I love to read every word that Joe has written.  He has not only written most of the blogs in this past year, but he probably has enough blogs written to get us through to next year.  I don’t think he knew that he was going to write so much and enjoy it so much.

I can almost tell when Joe is about to write one of his blogs.  Sometimes, I can sense when a situation is presented that will inspire Joe to start writing.  Some blogs just pour out of him and have been completed in five or ten minutes.  There have been times when I find him awake in the middle of the night on his computer because an idea just came to him.  On more than one occasion on a train, plane and even a cruise ship, he would ask me if I have a piece of paper and a pen because he wanted to jot down some thoughts.  Inevitably, those thoughts would become a full-fledged blog.   Joe always asks me if his efforts are ‘blog-worthy’.  In the office, there are times he will also send several drafts in a row to a few of us for comment before he finalizes them.  It is amazing how he has become such a prolific writer.

However, I already knew that Joe was a good writer.  What I have really learned about the USFSB blog is that “He” has a lot to say and “She” doesn’t.

I love to read every day.  I am always looking for a good book to read and I have a long list lined up of what is next.  I admire a really good author and the way some can turn a phrase.  I wish I could write the way some authors do, but I never seem to articulate my ideas the way I would like.  I will continue to write the “She Says” blog on occasion, but I know I will never be as prolific as “He”.

Even though Joe has proven to be the more expressive writer between the two of us, it’s still a team effort.

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

There will be no blog post on Monday due to the 4th of July holiday. We will return to our normal format on Wednesday, July 6th. Enjoy the holiday weekend!