The Internet has been both good and bad for entrepreneurs. It's upped the ante when it comes to hiring employees, forcing even the smallest firms to consider ways to offer corporate-style benefits and perks. Yet it's also made purchasing those items more affordable. Take 401(k) benefit plans for example: There are currently two companies with online plans, and the biggest benefit is that they're affordable for business owners with as few as five employees.
"One of the big barriers small businesses have faced is finding a quality 401(k) plan that's affordable," says Bill Carey, executive vice president for Fidelity Institutional Retirement Services Co., which owns and operates fidelitye401k.com. Carey says that because the entire process-from enrollment and benefit explanations to administration-is done online, HR costs are significantly reduced.
"It also allows more of a personal relationship," says Robert Steinhorn, 48, owner of Walnut Creek, California-based ez401k.com. "In a lot of ways, sitting at the computer at 10 p.m., going over options for the 401(k) plan, is more personal than having a meeting with some strangers coming into the office and trying to do a sales job on you. You get the information when and how you want."
According to Carey, Web-based 401(k) plans are best for those companies that have the requisite computer hardware, that don't mind employees taking time from their workday to check investments, and that employ workers comfortable with doing business transactions over the Net.