Small-Firm Benefits Program

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Bob Bell employs only two, but he’s built a benefits package that rivals many larger remodelers. And it doesn’t cost him an arm and a leg

August 04, 2000
Rod Sutton's Editorial Archives

The industry's take on benefits packages has been grudging acceptance over the past several years. Sure, it's a good idea, but until the labor shortage hit full force recently, it's been just that: an idea.

Now, as McDonald's and other part-time employers trumpet benefits packages and flexible schedules, remodelers are facing even more pressure to consider the benefits of benefits. Bob Bell, CGR, owner of Bell's Remodeling in Duluth, Minn., offers his two employees a comprehensive benefits package that includes health insurance, vacation and a bonus.

 

Bell''s Benefits
 
Bell''s Benefits
 
Bell''s Benefits
 
Bell''s Benefits
 
Bell''s Benefits
 
Bell''s Benefits
 
Bell''s Benefits
 
Bell''s Benefits
 
Bell''s Benefits
 

"I have had my share of financial difficulties over the years as most people do," Bell says. "When you have financial concerns, all sorts of other problems feed off of that, which leads to more problems. When you have mounting problems you are not giving your all at work and not able to concentrate on what you are doing. I've tried to ease the medical concern, started them on retirement, give them bonuses when we do well, and time off for their families."

Bell's concern for his workers drives his desire to provide benefits, but he understands that, in addition, a satisfied employee stay on. "I know what it's like to find good emplooyees," he says. "If I treat them like I want to be treated, they'll stick around.

"Working atmosphere is important," he says. "My employees don't have to jump up and down, but I don't want them to regret coming to work every day."

Many benefits were rolled out in exchange for a slower increase in hourly wages. Some benefits have tax advantages to the company. Bell rolls the cost of the benefits into his cost of doing business. The burden is tacked onto his employees' hourly wage, and that amount is marked up within the project cost. His costs are recouped.

Health insurance was offered initially as a shared expense, with Bell's picking up 50 percent of the premium. A few years ago, the company picked up the other 50 percent. Reaction to that, and to the retirement plan, was plain. Bell's contributes 2 percent of gross to the plan.

"My two guys don't get excited about anything," Bell says. "But I remember when I started discussing retirement plans, one guy said, "'Wow, a retirement plan." They don't think about it [in their mid-20s]. Now he has a plan, and they think it's pretty special."

In addition to the common benefits typically offered, Bell takes 1 percent of net profit on the jobs completed in a quarter, divides it for the two employees, and pays it out as a bonus. He also takes his team to a show every couple of years, and pays for flights and hotel rooms. This year, he's taking them to the JLC show in Las Vegas.

Rod Sutton is the Editor-in-Chief for Professional Remodeler. Please email him with any comments or questions regarding his column.

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