Should You Have Family Members Working for You?

Should You Have Family Members Working for You?

When you start a small business on your own, it may be, by its very nature, a family business. That is because you have no outside business partners or other investors to consider. You have probably used family resources to get it started. This may be your adventure, but your family will be deeply connected. Certainly, at least financially. But should you have family members helping you as employees?

For many small businesses the answer is an unequivocal yes. Depending on the type and nature of your business you may want family members to help with bookkeeping, handing out flyers or even selling. You’ll want them supporting you on social media and perhaps with their own personal skills. But the real question is, should you hire and pay them as an employee? It can get tricky.

First, you may be able to hire a family member for less money than a comparably experienced outsider. They may work for less because they are a relative. The problem is they may treat their job this way. They may not give it full effort, justifying it by their “discounted” salary. Boy, can that get messy. Especially if you were expecting the opposite. The lesson here may be if you need specific experience or expertise, look outside your family.

Hiring a family member as a salesperson can be a no-brainer. They know you and your product or services.and they can be paid according to their performance. If they sell, they earn, if not, you hire additional sales people. Sales is the great equalizer in business.

If you are hiring for other positions, you should probably pay no less or no more, for a family member to work for you than an outside candidate. This provides an opportunity for family members to become a part of your organization, but doesn’t give them an advantage. This will prove to be important for the self-esteem of the family member should your company grow and minimize hard feelings of other employees.

The fact is when you are starting a business, you want all the help you can get. That frequently will come from family members. Of course, you should accept their help, but when it comes to making them an employee, think ahead.

When building your business you should start at least, with a small business insurance plan to protect your investment and efforts. Our independent agents offer a variety of customized plans that can get you started. Contact us for a no obligation quote today.

When Working From Home Is Running a Small Businesses

When Working From Home Is Running a Small Businesses

More and more Americans than ever are working from home today. Companies are realizing that “remote workers” can be as productive, if not more so, that those who come into the office every day. Remote workers are still employed by their organizations, however. There are times, though, when working from home may actually be operating your own business. Here are some possible examples.

You Sell Products or Services You Produce

If you make hand-made items, create pieces of art or design jewelry at home to sell for a profit, you are likely operating a small business from home. Likewise, if you are operating a handyman service, walk dogs, perform landscaping or offer other services with your home as your office, it is likely a home business.

You Provide Contract Services.

More people are performing tasks at home to earn money as “free-lancers”. This can range from designing company logos and artwork to photography and writing. These freelancers are, in essence, conducting business from their own homes. The loss of any specific business related items from theft or damage like expensive cameras or computers may not be covered under a basic homeowners’ insurance policy.

You are Multi-Level Marketing

Multi-level marketing programs remain popular and range from health and beauty products to kitchen tools to cleaning products. If you are involved in such a program, be cautious. Holding business-related meetings in a home could lead to liability risks not covered under a home insurance policy. If you store lots of inventory of these products or have them delivered to your home they may also not be covered in a theft or other loss.

You Provide Childcare Services

While watching the occasional child is not probably going to be an issue, if you perform such duties regularly in your own home it could be considered operating a home business.

You should understand that although some municipalities and even HOA’s may have rules about conducting a business from a home, it is generally not a legal issue. It can, however, be an issue when it comes to liability. Some who conduct small business activities at home simply presume they will be covered under their basic homeowners insurance policy and that may not be the case. Contact your independent insurance agent to discuss business activities you may be conducting at home. While your accountant can assist you with tax ramifications of these activities, our agents can help protect you from losses due to fires, natural disasters and liability claims. Contact us today.

Budgeting to Protect Your Business

Budgeting to Protect Your Business

There are a myriad of aspects in operating a small business. Just about every business owner knows the two big keys are in building and protecting that business.

Building a business can be an exciting, albeit stressful time. You never know what the next day will bring. There is the excitement of making a sale, getting a referral and gaining positive reviews, followers and testimonials. Watching your business grow isn’t always easy, but there’s a joy to it that entrepreneurs will tell you is unmatched.

Once that business has experienced some growth and success, there is an obligation to protect it. Granted, protecting or defending a business may not be as thrilling as building it, but it can be equally important. Who and what are the potential threats to your business?

Competitors. They want your share of the market, and you likely want theirs. Both can be accomplished through marketing and hard work. You can better protect yourself from competitors by staying connected with your customers, maintaining a strong reputation for reliability and service, and making sure your clients get value with every transaction. Budget for marketing and reputation management.

A Slowing Economy. A slow economy threatens just about every business. You can better protect your business by operating lean, even in good times. Try to keep debt at a minimum and maintain a reserve. Partner with clients to support each other in an economic downturn.

Lawsuits. Businesses are often viewed as an easy target for those using litigation to get a payday. It can be from a slip and fall or other business-related personal injury. Even claims with little to no validity can threaten a business, which is why a business liability insurance policy is so valuable.

Losses from Natural Disasters. Natural disasters like fires, tornadoes and hurricanes can close a business at least until damages can be repaired. Business property insurance combined with business interruption insurance can provide the protection a business needs to survive such an unfortunate event.

Losses from Man-made Events. Natural events aren’t the only threat to businesses. There are thefts, vandalism, embezzlement, cyber-crime and other activities that can bring a business to its knees. That is unless they have the appropriate business insurance.

No, protecting your business may not be as thrilling as building your business, but it is no less important. It is why you should budget for marketing, facility and equipment maintenance and business insurance. Contact one of our independent business insurance professionals to discuss your specific business and its risks. You may be surprised at not only how affordable business insurance can be, but how much better you may sleep at night. Contact us today for your no cost, no obligation quote.

The Risks Your Small Business Faces Everyday

The Risks Your Small Business Faces Everyday

Every day is filled with risks. There are risks to driving, risks in crossing the street and as we’ve learned all too well in the recent past, risks even in shaking hands or getting too close to someone. But somehow we manage to move on, trusting that the oncoming driver will stay on his side of the road.

If you have a small business, it too faces risks every day. There are risks like those presented by a new competitor or a failing economy. There are also insurable risks that you can at least find some protection from. Here are some of those insurable risks.

The risk of a slip and fall. A slip and fall on the property where you conduct business can lead to a liability claim against you that can prove to be very costly. A liability claim can mean legal costs and even the cost of a settlement or judgement. The liability coverage of your business insurance plan can cover the financial risks of liability claims like those of a slip and fall.

The risk of vandalism. Would you be covered if you came to work one day to find windows broken, walls spray-painted or your property otherwise vandalized? Many businesses, especially smaller ones, are not equipped financially for such an event. An affordable small business insurance plan can help.

The risk of theft. Like vandalism, theft can occur anytime. It could be the theft of cash, inventory or computers and electronics. It could even be the theft of valuable files and customer information. An independent insurance agent can help determine your risks for theft and offer coverage to protect your business.

The risk of employee injuries. If an employee of yours is injured at work or in the performance of his or her duties, Workers Compensation can help protect you and them. Make sure you are not overpaying, however, when you connect with one of our independent agents.

The risk of having your business interrupted. What if theft, vandalism, or severe damage from storms caused your business to close for weeks or months? Business interruption insurance can protect your income from any covered event.

You can’t eliminate concerns in every area of life, but business insurance can help deliver more peace of mind. Contact one of our independent business insurance experts for an affordable quote to cover your enterprise. They can get quotes from insurance companies who specialize in businesses just like yours.

Business Insurance: Why “Someday” Should Be Today

Business Insurance: Why “Someday” Should Be Today

The statistics are more than disturbing. About 45% of businesses in the United States are operating without business insurance and nearly 75% are significantly underinsured.

Think about that for a moment. That’s pretty astounding.

Many of these business owners have saved for years to be their own boss. They have sometimes sacrificed time with family and worked without pay. Many have poured their heart and soul into building what they believe is the future. Yet, a large percentage go without sufficient business insurance coverage to protect that goal. Isn’t operating a business about making good business decisions?

Apparently, some business owners either don’t recognize the risks, don’t believe anything bad will happen to them or may even operate under the philosophy that “someday” they will be able to afford business insurance.

If any of these situations include you and your business, it is time to take time to recognize reality. “Someday” should be today. Here’s why.

Every day your business is at risk. Not just from competitors but from liability claims, fire, vandalism, extreme weather and more. There may not be much you can do to prevent such occurrences, but you can protect your business from their devastating effects.

If you don’t think you can afford business insurance and are waiting for “someday”, that day may never come without business insurance protection. You may be put out of business because of an unfortunate lightning strike, water damage, or a customer who slips and falls on your property. It could be game over.

If you think you can’t afford business insurance, we encourage you to contact one of our independent business insurance agents. They specialize is finding insurance companies who protect your type of business. More importantly, they can find you affordable protect today.

Simply contact one of our agents to discuss your business. They understand the phrase “You know, I can’t afford much.” At the very least they will work hard to get you started protecting your enterprise with basic coverage. You just may be surprised how affordable it can be. You may also appreciate how much better you may sleep. Connect with one of our independents today.

Are You Getting Your Fair Share?

Are You Getting Your Fair Share?

Most businesses can name three or four of the “big dogs” in their market when it comes to competitors. Whether you have a jewelry store, are a real estate broker, sell eyeglasses or pizza, you probably know who the leader in your market is. If you are fortunate, you are among them.

Market leaders generally have some things in common. They likely have been in business for a while and have built terrific name recognition. They will likely have a good reputation and have branded themselves well. These are all things to consider if you are not the market leader.

But just what is your “fair share” of your particular market.

Thankfully, with the internet and a little detective work, you can at least get a general idea. Here’s how.

Let’s say you have a pizza place.

You can Google “How much money is spent on pizza each year” and be blown away by the numbers. We found that Americans buy about 3 billion pizzas per year and that adds up to about $38 billion in sales. That is interesting, but it doesn’t quite yet help on a local level.

Now, we know that there are about 330 million people in the United States. That would mean the average amount of money spent per person in the United States on pizza is $115 each ($38 billion spent divided by 330 million people.)

Now, you are getting close!  If you have 100,000 people in your market, in total, they are probably spending about $11.5 million annually on pizza. (100,000 people spending $115 each). Based on your sales you can now figure out what is your “piece of the pie”. Additionally, you can find out how many pizza places there are in your town and divide it by the total market. Let’s say in this example, there are 75 pizza places listed. When you divide the total market sales of $11.5 million by the number of competitors (75), you can determine, all things being equal, each would have $153,333 in annual sales.

There are a number of ways to come at your total market share, but it will usually boil down to determining what the average person spends on your product and service each year and multiply it by your market population. It may not be exact, but at least it will give you an idea.

This is often inspiring for those who just don’t realize how much money is being spent locally each year in their business segment.

Have some fun and give it a try.

While you are crunching numbers, make sure you are getting the best coverage and rates on your business insurance. Contact one of our independent business insurance experts for your free quote.

Is the Customer Always Right?

Is the Customer Always Right?

When Harry Gordon Selfridge decided to start his department store in London in 1909, he did so after spending 25 years at Marshall Fields. He was looking for a way to differentiate his store from others at the time, and he created the phrase “The customer is always right.” It was his way of communicating how important his customers were.  It apparently worked as Selfridge’s would go on to over a century in business.

The question is, however, is there validity to the phrase? Is the customer always right?

You will likely get different answers when talking to a business owner or manager than when discussing this with a waiter or waitress or other customer service personnel. The reality is, however, the customer is NOT always right.

Customers make mistakes when ordering. They may choose the wrong size or select the wrong color. They may not fully understand shipping charges or may think they want their steak rare when they really want it medium.

The problem is it is hard to win an argument with the person holding the checkbook. After all, you may make your point, but in the process lose a customer. The customer may not always be right, but they are important.

The issue is amplified today with the internet and how fast an unpleasant experience with a product or service can be shared through social media or customer review websites. This is why more companies are adopting “customer appeasement” programs.

Rather than simply admitting the customer is always right, an appeasement program recognizes the importance of each individual customer, and the importance of taking steps to remediate any real or perceived problems.

A key to a customer appeasement program is listening to the customer and reaching an acceptable and reasonable appeasement solution. It may include a coupon, future discount, promotional item or even a complete refund. With an appeasement program, the customer may not always be right, but they are always important.

Finding new customers can be challenging and expensive. Once you get them, they are worth keeping.

What are you doing to protect your business? A solid business insurance program can help. Contact us for a business insurance review and price quote. Protect your business from theft, vandalism, severe weather and liability claims and get greater peace of mind. Connect with us today.

Five Things About Local Media You Should Know To Grow Your Business

Five Things About Local Media You Should Know To Grow Your Business

If you have a small business and rely heavily on your local market for the success of that business, you should take some time to learn about your local advertising media. This could include your local radio stations, newspaper or “shopper’, billboards and online opportunities.

Of course, local media is in business of selling. They want to sell you ads. But they also are there to help you sell. Here are five things about local media you may not have given much thought to.

They Are On Your Side

Generally, local media serve as cheerleaders for the community and local businesses. Their success depends on the success of the business community and those who support them. Local media is often well-connected with local organizations, the Chamber of Commerce and local government and safety forces.

They Have Free Creative Resources That Can Help You

Local media is a terrific resource for creativity. Most have at least some form of a creative department that can create “speculative” ads that can demonstrate their capabilities. These “spec” ads are a great way to see how you will look in print or sound on a radio ad without committing to an expensive ad campaign.

You Can Do More Than Just “Buy Ads”

Local media can often be flexible in how they sell ads. You may be able to work out a payment plan that is part cash and part “barter” where you can trade services for ad space. You also may be able to create a promotion where your product or services can serve as a prize. Let them know you are willing to think out-of-the-box to get additional exposure.

They are Eager for Local Content

Local medias are usually very receptive to accepting local content from area professionals. This can help you gain visibility and is an opportunity to position yourself as an expert in your field. When gas prices skyrocket, a mechanic can submit an article about gas saving maintenance tips. A jeweler can do a radio call-in or news story about how to not get ripped off when buying jewelry for Valentine’s Day.

They May Offer More Options Than What You Think

Many media resources offer more marketing services than just their main platform. They may also be able to assist you with direct mail or even online services. Be sure to ask about the full array of marketing services your local media may offer.

When contacting local media be upfront and honest. Let them know you are a local business looking for marketing help and would like to learn more about how their media can help.

Advertising and marketing can help you build your business. You can protect that business with a solid business insurance program, and we can help. Connect with one of our independent business insurance professionals to discuss your business, your risks, and how they may be able to help you build an affordable shield of protection. Contact us today and get started!

Why “Your” Business Isn’t Just YOUR Business

Why “Your” Business Isn’t Just YOUR Business

You worked hard at starting your business. You’ve had your own motivation, and you’ve ridden them to the point where you are on your own. Perhaps you got laid off and promised yourself “never again”. Maybe you got tired of being told to do things that went against your ethics or beliefs. Maybe you just wanted control of your own destiny.

It is terrific to feel like you are on your own, but the fact is you aren’t. It may be even more surprising to realize you don’t likely WANT to be on your own. No, it may be that your business isn’t just your business. Here are some reasons to embrace why that’s a good thing.

Your Family

Most entrepreneurs have amazing support from family to succeed. If family members aren’t actually helping you run your business it is likely they are supportive in a number of other ways, including your long days and limited accessibility.

Employees

If you have employees, they certainly have an interest in your success. You, after all, are providing a paycheck and your success is their success. Having a supportive group of employees that share in your goals is invaluable.

Customers

Successful business’ work years not just in recruiting customers, but in getting them to depend on their business. Your customers rely on you for having the right part, cooking their steaks a certain way or in fixing a problem they have. You are doing some very good things if your customers depend on you.

Vendors and Suppliers

You may not give it much thought but your vendors and suppliers depend on you much like you depend on your customers. They count on you every day to do the right things to stay in business and grow your business, so they can grow theirs. When times get tough, you may be surprised with how supportive your vendors and suppliers can be.

This doesn’t even include people like your banker, landlord, local schools and non-profits who count on local businesses for support. Yes, you may have started your own business to be your own boss, but you may not really want to be totally “on your own”.

This is why it is so important to protect your business with at least an adequate business insurance program. You may not need extensive coverage or all the “bells and whistles” but if you are lucky, there are plenty of people around counting on you to keep your business going.

Contact us. Let’s talk about protecting your business for you, and everyone who is counting on you.

Expert Guidance and Your Small Business

Expert Guidance and Your Small Business

If you own or manage a small business, odds are you are operating with limited resources. It is probably a good bet you don’t have your own IT team, aren’t operating with a staff lawyer and may not even have your own full-time bookkeeper. You could probably benefit from the help of someone with advertising and marketing experience, in loss prevention and even security. You can benefit from experts in your area with the right approach and an open mind.

Advertising and Marketing

Contact your local newspaper or radio stations and let them know you are looking for help in coming up with marketing ideas. Many media companies will even create “speculative” ads for clients for free, just to demonstrate their capability. Of course, they will try to sell you on their particular media, but at the very least you will learn more about marketing and your local media, and may even come away with some valuable ideas. There also may be help available from the Marketing and Advertising classes at local colleges who may be in search of real life projects in which to get involved.

Security

Many businesses can benefit from upgrading their security, and security companies often provide free assessments to show where you may be vulnerable. You could probably benefit from this knowledge, even if you don’t buy their “system”. Some insurance companies offer discounts for installing a security system should you decide to proceed with it.

Insurance

Industry experts estimate that about 44% of all small businesses are operating without business insurance. These businesses are at risk to lose their business to vandalism, a natural disaster or even a simple slip and fall. Some may feel they can’t afford it, others may not know how at risk they are. Most simply don’t fully understand its value and how affordable small business plans can be. No cost, no obligation expert help may just be a phone call away when you connect with one of our professional, independent business insurance professionals.

We can discuss your business, your goals and your risks. We can help design a business insurance plan to fit your business. Best of all, we can reach out to our network of insurance companies to get quotes for you.

If you are part of the 44%, we can help. If you already have business insurance, we can provide a review and price quote to ensure you are getting your best value. Contact us today.