Tapping Into The Genius of Your Staff to Make Your Business Better

When you think about the assets of your business you may think about the equipment, furnishings, inventory, technology and financial resources. Many companies talk about how their employees are one of their greatest assets. But what is it about those employees that makes them so valuable? Is it because they are experienced or well-trained? Is it that they know your customers and care about the products and services they represent? It could be all of this and more. But are you tapping into the genius of your staff to make your business better? All it may take is the right questions. Here are some questions to ask your staff that may help bring out their inner genius to help grow your company.

  • “What questions are you most frequently asked about our company?” Front-line employees are often asked and answer the most questions regarding your company. These questions provide insight into misperceptions about your organization. It can help identify areas where your customers are not properly informed or knowledgeable about your business.
  • “Can you name the three top areas where you see waste in our business?” Asking for a specific number of responses may help them consider your question more deeply. Staff often sees waste frequently that ownership or management may miss.
  • “What incentives work best to motivate you?” You may even want to provide examples. Many companies are surprised to learn more flex time or time off is more important than compensation. Perhaps working from home helps single parents to minimize day care costs. Perhaps simple recognition in front of co-workers is important. You may find differing incentives work best for varying individuals.
  • “What tools or assistance do you need to help your performance?” Don’t assume you are providing everything your staff needs. Perhaps they are missing a piece of technology. Maybe there’s additional education and training that would help. You may find a manager is not providing as much assistance or guidance as necessary.
  • “What talents do you have that we are not fully tapping into?” You just may discover hidden talents, skills and ambition that you previously didn’t know existed.

The mere process of asking about their thoughts and opinions is often a morale booster. You may find some genius thoughts and ideas to propel your company to the next level.

Is your company properly protected against a slip and fall injury claim? Are your vehicles appropriately covered? Do you have high enough limits to cover your property including inventory? Protect all of your assets with a business insurance review. Our independent insurance agents just may have some genius ideas to help insure you better for less.

Five Cost-Effective Marketing Ideas for a Small Business

If you have a small business, you understand the importance of name recognition and keeping new prospects and customers flowing in. You are also probably faced with minimal resources when it comes to advertising and marketing. Here are five cost-effective marketing ideas small business can use to gain more attention and customers.

  1. If you have a storefront, maximize use of the space available. There are advantages and disadvantages to a bricks and mortar location. One of the benefits is the visibility it provides you. Make use of sidewalk and window signage to gain attention. Have brochures, your own coupons and business cards available at the counter or check-out area. Keep in-store displays attractive and provide attentive service.
  2. Build an email contact list. Many potential customers are more than willing to provide their email address for an incentive. It may be an entry for a prize or an instant discount. Start building an email marketing list and carefully utilize it to announce sales and promotions or to send digital email coupons. Email is an extremely cost-effective way to keep your company in front of prospects and to stay connected with customers.
  3. Co-promote with like-minded businesses with a similar target audience. Build mutually beneficial relationships with other businesses who have the same target audience. Mortgage brokers can work with real estate agents, jewelers with wedding cake bakers and home improvement contractors with furniture or appliance stores. Share the costs or flyers and advertising and work on a referral network.
  4. Use social media and content marketing. Start a blog about your area of specialty. Build your reputation as an expert in your field. Use social marketing to promote the blog and your business. Set aside time each week to freshen your social media and blog content and to respond to comments and emails. Create short videos about your product and services and upload online.
  5. Get involved. You can easily increase the visibility of your business by participating in civic events and creating a fundraiser for a favored charity or non-profit. Encourage staff to get involved. Community involvement is the right thing to do and it can increase your visibility and improve your reputation.

Are you getting the most from your business insurance plan? Are you overpaying? How would you know? We invite you to contact one of our independent business insurance specialists for a business insurance review and price quote. There’s no-obligation and nothing to lose. Contact us to discuss your business today!

Five Facts About Small Business Insurance Most Aren’t Aware Of

Most don’t pay much attention to their business insurance unless there is a claim or potential claim. There are some interesting facts about small business insurance, however, that can make it a bit more interesting. Here are five of them.

  1. Small business insurance is very affordable. A recent survey indicates that about 50% of small businesses pay $1,000 or less annually on their business insurance. About 25% spend between $1,000 and $2,000 with the remaining 25% invest over $2,000 annually.
  2. The most frequent small business claim is theft.Burglary and theft are the most common claim under small business insurance policies. Losses from theft and burglary account for about 20% of all insurance claims made. Other common claims include water damage, customer injuries and product liability claims.
  3. Most small businesses carry business insurance. Surveys indicate that about 60% of small business owners say they have business insurance. The problem? That means 40% of small businesses are risking their future unnecessarily. A significant property loss or single liability claim can put a small business in jeopardy. In fact, 35% of small businesses said they experienced a business-related event within the past year that could have led to a claim.
  4. Small business insurance featured “bundling”  before bundling was a thing. The most popular small business insurance program is the Business Owners Policy or BOP. This combines the most common forms of insurance to cost-effectively protect a small business. It is in effect, a “bundled” policy that was available long before bundling became popular for consumers.
  5. Even small businesses are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Today, just about every state requires businesses to carry workers’ compensation insurance if they have any employees. Workers’ compensation insurance provides benefits to both the employees and employer in the event of a work-related injury.

If you are one of the approximately 40% of small businesses without any form of small business insurance, it is time to make a change. Small business insurance is affordable and our team of business insurance professionals can help you get started today. Simply call us and let’s discuss your business. Our independent agents will shop a variety of insurance companies that specialize in small business insurance. You can choose the policy and premium to suit you. There’s no cost or obligation when getting a quote. The coverage and peace of mind you deserve. Join the businesses that can operate more fearlessly. Contact us for your small business insurance quote today.

Why You Need Business Insurance Even if You Rent Your Business Space

There are some misperceptions that if a business does not own the property from which it conducts business, it either has a no need or far less of a need for business insurance. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While it may be true that if you rent your business space you will not need insurance on the actual property, there are multiple reasons business insurance is still critical. Here are a few of them.

Liability

Your business is at risk for a liability claim in the event of a business-related injury whether you own the property or not. If someone should slip and fall or an employee cause harm to someone while conducting business, a lawsuit could follow. Liability insurance can protect you from the financial damage resulting from such a claim.

Vehicle Insurance

If your business either owns a vehicle or vehicles or uses a car or truck in conducting business, you and your company need to be protected with commercial vehicle insurance. Your personal automobile insurance will not suffice.

Professional Liability Insurance

If your business provides professional services (legal, medical, financial) Professional Liability Insurance can cover you against claims against errors and omissions. In essence, this is professional malpractice insurance and is extremely important for those whose product is a professional service.

Business Interruption Insurance

You may not own the property where you conduct business, but if it were to be damaged or if your business was forced to cease operations for a covered calamity, Business Interruption Insurance can protect your income until you can get up and running again.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance

This provides coverage for your employees should they become injured in the performance of their work-related duties. Workers’ Compensation also provides some important protection to employers against employee lawsuits resulting from such injuries.

Home-Based Business Insurance

Even if you conduct business from home, you should consider business insurance. This will cover any business-related inventory, equipment and furniture in the event of a loss due to fire, storms, theft or vandalism. This is coverage that your personal homeowners’ insurance would not provide.

Business insurance protects far more than just the structure where a business conducts activities. It provides far-reaching protection from a variety of issues. To discuss your business and the risks it faces, contact one of our independent agents for a free business insurance quote. Protect your business and your future with business insurance for any size company.

Etsy and Ebay and Work From Home Businesses

Most of us know someone who has dabbled on Ebay, Etsy or other websites where “business” is conducted. Making aromatic candles, natural soaps and knitting, crocheting and sewing from home lend themselves to such websites. When does such activity shift from a hobby or “dabbling” to a work from home business? Here are some factors to consider.

Are You Doing it for Fun or for Money?

If you are creating and selling items because you enjoy it, it probably is a healthy hobby. If selling the items for a profit is your motivation, you are likely more in a home business frame of mind.

How Much Inventory to You Have?

Do you have shelves and shelves or boxes upon boxes of inventory? Is this inventory completed or raw materials? The more inventory you have and the more money you have invested in that inventory, the more likely it is you are building a home business.

How are You Marketing Your Products?

If your marketing is limited to social media and perhaps an email list, you probably have a hobby. Now, if you have created a logo, labeling and have created a flyer, it would appear you are building a business.

How Well are You Tracking Sales?

Your attitude for tracking sales and inventory will say a lot about the direction your hobby/business is heading. It may also just be a reflection on your personality.

Have You Set Up a Business Structure?

Have you pursued setting up a sole proprietorship, partnership or LLC? Have you set up a separate account for transaction or secured a tax ID number? This would all indicate you have a home-based business.

How Much Space Does Your Activity Take?

Do you have a separate room in your home you use as an “office”? Do you take a percentage of this home space as a deduction on your income taxes as business expenses? Have you invested in a computer or other equipment to build your business?

Are Your Customers Mainly Family & Friends?

If more of your customers are “strangers” the more likely it is you have a home-based business.

If you are developing a home-based business that is bringing in increasingly significant amounts of income, or if you have invested heavily in equipment or inventory, you should be aware that your personal homeowners’ insurance policy will not provide coverage should a loss occur due to fire or theft. You should reach out to one of our independent insurance agents to get a quote on protecting your home-based business.

Own a Rental? You May Need Business Insurance

People become landlords in a variety of ways for multiple reasons. They may intentionally invest in real estate as income properties. Some inherit a property and rather then sell it, they may decide to keep it and rent it out. Others may have extra space in their home and make the decision to rent out a room long or short term. Being a landlord, however, is not always easy. There are vacancies to fill, rents to collect and a seemingly endless myriad of property maintenance issues.There’s also the fact that when you become a landlord, you are going into business. This can create a need for business insurance.

Your Homeowners’ Insurance May Not Be Sufficient

Generally, your typical homeowners’ insurance policy would not cover any damage to your property as the result of its use as a rental.

Check with Your Homeowners’ Insurance Agent

Each insurance company may have its own provisions regarding rental properties. Whether your tenant is a member of the family can make a difference, as can the physical setup of the space.

Explore Your Options for Coverage

Most policies designed for landlords will provide basic liability coverage, property damage and income protection. This income protection would be valuable in a situation where the property may become uninhabitable due to damage. Like a standard homeowners’ insurance policy, flood insurance would need to be acquired separately.

Protect Your Contents

If you rent furnished space, store personal belongings in the space you rent, or provide major appliances, make sure you have coverage on your personal property.

If you are an investment property owner it can be a very good idea to encourage your tenants to secure their own renters insurance. Renters insurance will cover their personal possessions, offer protection from liability claims and offer protection in the event of theft or vandalism. Remind them that your insurance will NOT protect their personal property.

If you are considering the purchase of an investment property, make sure you insure your investment. Contact one of our independent insurance agents to discuss your property and your risks. They can seek out quotes from multiple insurance companies and help determine which coverage is best for your situation. Contact us today to get started.

Checking for Financial “Leaks” at Your Business

It has been said that it is much easier being a business owner or manager in good economic times than in poor ones. A good economy can make up for a lot of bad business decisions. When the economy tightens up, however, the mistakes create more significant problems. Better management is required as times toughen. A difficult economy magnifies errors and managers and owners should become more aware of financial “leaks” in a business”. Here are some places to start.

Overtime

Is it really necessary to pay for overtime or can an administrative assistant take on some of the duties of a higher paid employee?

Can You Save by Having Employees Work Remotely?

What once was unthinkable is now being embraced by even major corporations. Employees working remotely from home. Employees love the flexibility it provides and businesses can significantly lower their operating costs including rent, utilities and other facility expenses.

Utilities

Leaving the lights on, copiers running all night and computers using electricity when not in use may not matter much when business is booming. But in a tight economy, you need to pay attention to leaking toilets and old office refrigerators that may be costing hundreds per year.

Cellphone/Internet Access

What suited your business two or three years ago may not be cost effective today. This may be a good time to explore your options when it comes to cellphones and internet access for you business.

Leases

Landlords are quickly realizing their space can be expendable with the growing amount of remote workers. This can be a good time to open discussions about your lease with your landlord, particularly if the lease is due for renewal shortly.

Business Insurance

You certainly don’t want to put your business at risk by eliminating areas of your business insurance. There are, however, ways to plug leaks. You may consider higher deductibles, for example. You could also contact one of our independent insurance agents for a business insurance review and quote. We can take a look at your coverage and see where it may be excessive or lacking. We can seek quotes from an array of business insurance companies to find new, competitive quotes. This could result in savings without sacrificing coverage.

It’s easy to get started. Call one of our independent insurance agents today. There is no cost to get a quote, nor any obligation to accept it. It may, however, just be the answer to stopping one of those financial leaks in your business.

Think Twice Before Cutting Back on Business Insurance

We have recently heard the phrases “uncertain times”, “the new-normal”, and “we are in this together.”, quite frequently. The reality is, the economy is in flux and businesses need to be proactive in taking steps to ensure their futures. For some, this may mean lay-offs and furloughs. For others it may mean getting more tasks done from home. For others it will mean cutting back on hours and keeping a closer eye on business expenses.

One has to be cautious, however, in making cutbacks designed to protect your future. In advertising, for example, if a business would totally cut back on their marketing budgets, going out of business may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, a better option may be negotiating with your media of choice in getting more bang for your advertising dollars. They too, are looking for solutions in maintaining market share.

Businesses also need to consider very carefully before cutting back on business insurance. Eliminating or reducing coverage may place your company in jeopardy. This could potentially turn what is a relatively short-term problem into a situation with permanent ramifications. Instead, contact your independent insurance agent to discuss options. You may be able to increase deductibles or make other adjustments. Our independent insurance agents can even re-quote your coverage, using multiple companies to find the coverage you need at a price you can afford. To simply drop coverage without looking at other options could have dire consequences. Instead, reach out and let’s discuss your situation.

Challenging times can create the need for innovative solutions and decisive decision making. But those decisions don’t necessarily have to be radical or risky. If your business has been negatively impacted by the events of the day, let us do what we do best. Let us help find you loss prevention solutions that you can still maintain and afford. Contact us today for a no cost, no-obligation quote. We promise to work diligently in getting you the protection you deserve to continue to protect your business at the highest possible level.

Protecting the Electronic and Digital Assets of Your Business

Your business likely has a variety of assets ranging from real estate to inventory. You business may own equipment, furniture and even vehicles. But have you considered your digital and electronic assets? These can include everything from smartphones to software and customer data. These assets have real value and are well worth protecting. Here are some basic steps your business should take in securing its digital and electronic assets.

Take Inventory

Asset protection begins with creating a complete inventory. When it comes to electronic assets be sure to include computers, laptops, smartphones and any other physical electronic devices like printers, copiers, video monitors and more. Digital assets your company may have could include a website, blogs, images, videos, apps and business processes your company may have developed, digital subscriptions and any intellectual property your business owns. Be sure to inventory assets on your own servers as well as those in “the cloud”. Include email lists and customer data.

Document Ownership

This includes a record of receipts and history of use. If your company owns intellectual property developed by employees, include this documentation as well. This is a good time to make sure all of the software your company is being used legally and you have documentation to prove ownership or user rights.

Consider Non-Disclosure Agreements

If your business has significant digital assets that include intellectual property or proprietary procedures and processes, consider having consultants and employees sign a non-disclosure agreement protecting your information.

Place a Value on These Assets

This can be challenging but important. Digital assets are worth far more than just the initial costs of the software. It may take years to build data bases and mailing and customer lists. These can have significant value.

Talk with Your Business Insurance Agent

Once you have compiled a list of your digital and electronic assets, it is time to make sure they are adequately insured under your business insurance plan. This should include a discussion about business interruption insurance should a loss of digital assets cause you to cease operations for a period of time.

Don’t forget that protecting digital assets also includes regularly backing up your valuable data. Backups should be kept in the cloud or in some other off-site location.

Are your electronic and digital assets properly protected? Contact our independent insurance agents today for a no-obligation review and price quote.

Why Your Bank May Require Business Insurance to Secure a Commercial Loan

Most businesses usually have one thing in common. The need for more operating capital. Cash can help companies pay bills, keep up with payroll and maintain equipment. Funding can be used for growth by affording expanding market areas, adding staff or equipment or even expanding product lines.

If a company has a solid financial background and assets, they may seek out traditional funding through a commercial loan. But did you know that a bank may require a business to show proof of sufficient insurance before approving a loan?

Like with a mortgage, a financial institution wants to protect its interests when providing a loan. They usually will require homeowners’ insurance to provide a home loan. This is similar to what they may request from businesses when issuing a commercial loan.

If you are purchasing real estate for your business, for example, your bank will want to make sure the structure is sufficiently insured. If a loan is for other purposes and company assets are used to serve as collateral on the loan, the financial institution will want to make sure those assets are insured. This could not only include real estate but inventory, equipment, furniture and electronics.

Business insurance should be a foundation for any business. It can protect against liability claims, vandalism, fires, storms, theft and even loss of business. Your financial institution understands the importance of business insurance and you should to.

Whether you are considering starting a business, have a small or medium business or even a home-based business, contact us. Our independent business insurance agents will discuss the type of business you are undertaking and your specific risks. They will talk about your business structure, and how to ensure all involved parties are protected. They will then scour multiple companies they have access to to compare coverage and costs. In the end, you make the final decision in how best to protect your business. We invite you to contact us and get started today!