Your First Business Experience

Your First Business Experience

We may not learn business in elementary school, but we sure learn about it. By the time most of us reach third or fourth grade, and sometimes even sooner, we become pretty proficient at asking aunts, uncles, momo and popo and every other friend and relative to purchase a variety of products from us including candy, cookies, greeting cards, popcorn or over-priced scented candles. We learn the value of hard work and competition in that if we sell a few thousand dollars worth of these products we may “earn” a coloring book or a pizza party with transportation in a limo.

In spite of these lessons, or perhaps because of them, many go into business for themselves later in life. While the days of lemonade stands and delivering newspapers door to door may be behind us, entrepreneurship is not. In fact, more of us are in business for ourselves than ever. By mid-2021, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that about 9.6 million people are self-employed.

Some of this activity has been accelerated by the popularity of ride-sharing services and food and delivery services and has been fueled by the pandemic.But it also has been made more enticing through technology and the relative common ease of setting up an online business.

There has also been a resurgence in multi-level marketing opportunities, with participants using social media to advance their sales and conducting virtual sales parties online.

Digital marketing and apps have largely replaced old-fashioned elbow grease as a way to grow businesses, but make no mistake, starting a small business still takes exceptional effort. Just making the move from being self-employed to adding your first employee can be a huge challenge.

What was your first business experience. Did it encourage or even inspire you to move forward as an entrepreneur?

Operating your own business can provide motivation and a sense of freedom. But it also places responsibility squarely on your shoulders. It is up to you to not only guide that business but to protect it. Business insurance can help.

Business insurance can protect your property and assets. As you climb the ladder of building your business, protect it through each step. Connect with one of our business insurance professionals.

The Importance of an Exit Strategy

The Importance of an Exit Strategy

One of the last things you may have on your mind when starting a business may be your exit strategy. After all, your initial focus is on building and growing your business. Exiting it isn’t even on the map yet.

This is understandable, but a clear exit strategy, even early on, can help you determine how to build your company and what you want to ultimately get out of it. Wouldn’t it be sad after all, if after years of building your company it would simply cease to exist upon your departure?

Do You Want Your Family to Take it Over?

Is your goal to build a business that will stay in your family? Should you be grooming family members in the business? Who would that person be? The company structure you set up now can help your family take over the company upon your exit later.

Are You Building it to Sell to Finance Your Retirement?

If your endgame is to sell your company as you near retirement, you need to build your company, so it can operate without you. This makes investing in your brand and customer list so important. Decisions made along the way when operating your business for a long-term sale should be made with that thought in mind.

Do You Want to Position it For an Employee Purchase?

Perhaps your long-term goal is to position it for an employee buyout, while you maintain an interest. This may help you recruit talent and help you structure it in a way to facilitate that buyout. Your exit schedule may depend on how well your company is prepared for an employee buyout.

Sometimes we can get locked into the process of operating a company and forget about our log-term goal. Our exit strategy is a critical component of that longer term goal and could very well impact the decisions we make when operating it.

What would you like to see happen to the company you have build when you are ready to exit it? It is worth some thought.

Of course, part of building your business is protecting it along the way. Business insurance helps. A well-designed business insurance plan can help protect your efforts and assets While protecting you from the potential financial losses associated with an injury liability claim. Contact one of our professional business insurance agents to get started on your free quote today!

The Business of Business

The Business of Business

What business are you in? More specifically, who are your customers? For some companies, they are in the business of business. Their products and services are mainly designed for businesses and their customers are primarily business owners. Who are some of these companies?

Advertising

This category is a bit deceptive in that at first glance, radio and television, for example, may appear to be in the broadcasting or entertainment business. Their real business, however, is selling their audience to advertisers. This also includes newspapers, magazines, billboards and even the internet and social media.

Business Associations

Virtually every business category has a long list of associations on the local, regional and national level. Realtors, doctors, lawyers, mechanics, funeral directors, and even hardware stores all have organization specific organizations that simply only exist as a business for businesses.

Promotional Products

Odds are unless your neighbor has a business, he’s never given you a T-shirt with his name and likeness on it. Promotional items are created for businesses to build name recognition and branding. From calendars to pens and visors to T-shirts, companies that produce promotional items target businesses or all types.

Sign Companies

If you have a bricks and mortar business, odds are you have at least some sort of signage. Signage can range from large neon or back-lit signage to vinyl window signage or styrofoam stone-look signs. Signage tells those who see it much more about your business than just your name, they help convey who you are.

Business Insurance

Business insurance, too, is designed specifically for companies of all sizes. From small home-based businesses to large manufacturers, business insurance helps protect equipment, inventory, furniture, electronics and more from losses from theft, fire and even storm damage. It also protects from the financial losses that can result from liability claims.

Connect with one of our independent business insurance experts today to discover how affordable business insurance can be for your business. Get a no obligation quote. When it comes to protecting your business, there’s no business like our business.

One of Your Most Important Assets: The Reputation of Your Business

One of Your Most Important Assets: The Reputation of Your Business

The reputation of a business has always been a critical factor in its success. It is why we often see major businesses continuing to advertise aggressively. They understand both the value of protecting market share and their reputation. In the digital age, the reputation of your business is not more or less important than it was before. It is, however, potentially more fragile.

The days before message-boards, customer review websites, and social media, a disgruntled customer could be handled quietly and individually. While that is still somewhat possible today, one unhappy camper can also turn into a raging fire if left unattended.

This is why you must care for that reputation like the valuable asset it is. That requires responding to attacks upon it.

This starts with responding to emails and other avenues for customer complaints, including review sites. There are, however, rules of engagement.

  • Acknowledge the problem without accepting blame or getting snarky. Responding to a negative online review by posting “Sorry YOU had a problem” or “We apologize YOU misunderstood our policy.” can be interpreted as snarky whether “YOU” is capitalized or not. Instead, you can start with “We apologize there was a problem” or “We regret there was a misunderstanding”.
  • Take it offline. Never attempt to resolve the issue in an online discussion or unproductive back and forth conversation online. Instead, ask the reviewer to contact you personally to get details. Remember, others will be reading your response, and they are as important of an audience as the reviewer. This is not the time for passive aggressiveness. Handle complaints quickly and professionally.
  • Customer Appeasement Is a Thing. If you are in business today, it can help relieve some stress to just realize customer appeasement is a part of business today. This doesn’t mean the customer is always right, or you have to give away the store. It just means you need to invest in protecting your reputation by having a follow-up system in place for those who have a less than perfect experience. This may include a written policy and even a budget.

Just as you should protect your reputation you should protect your business from liability claims and other financial losses. A well-designed business insurance program can do that. Connect with us to discuss your business and where you may be at greatest risk. We look forward to assisting you in protecting all the assets of your business.

The Art of Open-Ended Questions

The Art of Open-Ended Questions

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and felt like you really had a connection? That they really “get you” and you looked forward to your next encounter? It may have even been in a business situation or community function. If so, there’s a good chance two things took place. Most of the focus was on you, and your conversation was with someone who had an understanding of the power of open-ended questions.

It is natural for us to want some focus on us, so you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable with that. Focusing on the other person is an easy way to make them feel special, interesting and unique.

The art of answering open-ended questions is not quite so simple. With practice, however, you can see it pay off big both in terms of personal and business-related relationships.

Open-ended questions are those that require some explanation other than a simple yes or no answer or one word response.

Asking a child, for example, if “they had fun today” may get a yes or no response. Asking them “what did you do that was fun today” will likely solicit a more involved answer.

“What did you find most interesting about France?”, “What is it like in the real estate business these days?” and “Wow, tell me more about what its like owning your own restaurant.” are likely to engage a lively and interesting conversation. More so than “How long have you been selling houses?”

Putting some thought into well-phrased, open-ended questions shows you are interested. It allows the person you are speaking with to elaborate of the items of importance to them. You can more easily and quickly find out where their “hot buttons” are and what makes their eyes light up and engages them. They may even have a better chance of leaving your meeting thinking what a great conversationalist you are and how you really had a “connection”.

Building relationships is like building a business. It can take time, thought, diligence and care. In a perfect world, friends are good customers and customers are good friends.

If you have questions about your business insurance, we are here to help. Do you think you can’t afford it? Contact us. We can provide a free, no-obligation quote. We look forward to assisting you.

Who Is Your Business Really Competing Against?

Who Is Your Business Really Competing Against?

Odds are you know who your direct competitors are. These are the companies, businesses and people who offer similar products and services to yours, and who your potential customers may choose over you. Many of us, however, don’t recognize the many competitors we face every day who are not directly involved in our business. Becoming aware of these competitors can help position us better to gain in market share. Here are some examples.

Jewelry

One good example is that of jewelers. At first glance, other jewelers would seem to be the competition. But a jeweler attempting to sell a $10,000 piece of jewelry may be competing against a cruise line, a new car or a kitchen remodel. These are the other options a consumer may be considering for that $10,000 other than the jewelry. Jewelers may also find themselves competing against a more expensive wedding dress, larger wedding reception or honeymoon.

Real Estate

Real estate agents may feel they are competing with other agents, but in fact, may be in competition with an attractive apartment community, new home builder or even a fixer-upper. A real estate agent may also be in competition with a college education or even children!

Gym Memberships

Many gym memberships are sold on the prospects decisions to get in shape or become healthier. The reality is, the competition may be purchasing their own at-home equipment or giving up that office space to create an at-home gym. You may even be competing against the time it takes to drive to and from the gym and using spare time to binge stream or go to the movies.

Most businesses are competing with far more than just their direct competitors. They are battling a variety of options consumers may have for their disposable dollars. This can be extremely valuable to know before focusing too much on just your direct competitors when talking with prospects.

You have similar choices in your business. Should you buy a piece of equipment or hire a new employee? Do you invest in marketing or upgrade your digital infrastructure? One thing is for sure. You should always take prudent steps to protect what you already have invested in your business, and that can mean starting a solid business insurance plan. We can help, and it may be more affordable than you think. Contact us to discuss your business, your risks and to get a no obligation quote. Like your potential customers, you have choices. Putting your business at risk shouldn’t be one of them. Contact us today.

The Things You Do to Protect Your Business

The Things You Do to Protect Your Business

If you are a small to medium business owner, you probably do it dozens of times per day. You likely do much of it without giving it a second thought. Every day you do multiple things and take many steps to protect your business. Some are small, and others are more significant, but each and every day you are aware, to some degree, of the risks your business faces.

Threats from Your Competitors

Most business owners know exactly who their competitors are and their weak and strong points. If they introduce a new product, make a significant hire or raise or lower prices, competitors usually catch wind rather quickly. This is one way business owners safe-guard their business.

You Protect Your Property, Equipment and Inventory

From front door and window locks to security cameras and alarms, you are likely aware of the threats to the items of value in your business. It is, in part, why businesses track inventory, to monitor losses. Every day in businesses across America, cash drawers are counted, security devices track expensive items and cameras monitor for shoplifting.

Keeping Your Property Safe

If your business has a bricks and mortar location, you are probably well aware of the threat of a liability lawsuit resulting from a customer injury. A falling item, an unmarked step, a wet floor or other hazards can lead to a slip and fall or other injury claim. It is why business owners are so concerned with keeping aisles clear and wet areas mopped up.

You may take steps every day to minimize the threat of fires, theft, employee injuries, online security breaches, unauthorized credit card uses and minimizing bad customer experiences.

But do you have a sufficient business insurance plan?

Small businesses, especially those just starting up, work on very tight budgets. For this reason, some choose to bypass business insurance. Research indicates as much as 45% of small businesses operate without business insurance.

There’s no reason to forego insurance. Business insurance can be surprisingly affordable and the benefits you get in stress relief and peace of mind can be well worth it. At the very least, you should find out.

Contact one of our independent business insurance specialists to discuss your business, your risks and to get a free quote. You are already taking steps every day to protect your business. Take one more by contacting us to get the business insurance your company deserves.

Rejuvenating The Digital Presence of Your Small Business

Rejuvenating The Digital Presence of Your Small Business

Does your small business have a website? Are you proud of it? Perhaps more importantly, is it doing you any good? Maybe years ago you had your brother-in-law create one, or may have even attempted it on your own. Far too many small businesses have dated, old, static websites that perhaps, do them more harm than good. How do you feel about your small business’s website?

The reality is, that website is just as important as ever, and maybe even more so. Consumers are still looking for what they want online although how they accomplish this may have changed. Here are some tips for rejuvenating your online presence.

If It Looks Old, It Probably Is

Like furniture, car and clothing styles, websites can look old and outdated. If your site hasn’t been updated in months or years, it is time for a change. Search for a more modern, contemporary design that looks and feels fresh. There are more easy-to-use templates than ever that may be an improvement.

Is Your Site Mobile Capable?

How does your website look on a mobile device? Most searches are being conducted on small screen smartphones and old designs do not work well on these devices. Update your site, so it looks just as great on a phone screen as it does on a desk top.

Keep the Basics Upfront and Visible

Make sure the main page tells who are, what you do, who you serve, where you are located and how to contact you. Potential customers have little patience when surfing for a potential vendor, so let them know quickly you can help them. Don’t leave them guessing, or they may just move on.

Connect with Them

Give them a visible opportunity to connect with you through a “contact us” button, blog or free offer. Even a simple “Have a Question?” button can serve as an invitation to build a connection that could turn into a sale. Make sure you have a call to action.

Keep in mind consumers are more than willing to do some research on their own before making contact with you. Let them know you are a capable, experienced and knowledgeable option to help them get what they want. Then it is a matter of funneling all your other digital marketing efforts like emails and social media, to your new vibrant website.

Is your business insurance outdated? Have you had a review in the last few years? If not, we invite you to contact us. Connect with one of our independent business insurance experts today.

Surprising Product Origins

Surprising Product Origins

Some of the most popular products we use today were the result of accidents, coincidence and other odd and weird origins. Here are a few that you may not have known about.

Frisbee

These “flying discs” trace their origin to New Haven, Connecticut and the use of simple pie pans that were thrown and caught. They eventually developed into the “Pluto-Platter” until the Wham-O Corporation bought the rights to sell the discs in 1957. The “Frisbee” was bon and has been a beach staple ever since.

Alka Seltzer

In 1934, when the owner of Dr. Miles Medical Company was visited by a newspaper during a flu epidemic, he asked the newspaper editor how his staff remained healthy when there was so much sickness around. He was told the answer was simple aspirin washed down with baking soda and water. The Miles Medical Lab chemist was called in to create an easy-to-use formula of the concoction and Alka Seltzer was created.

Wheaties

The iconic cereal was actually created by accident when an employee of the company that would become General Mills spilled a wheat mixture on a hot stove. Two years later Wheaties was introduced and the “Breakfast of Champions” took its place in cereal history.

Play-Doh

This children’s clay like toy actually got its start as a wallpaper cleaning product named Kutol. The cleaning compound was shipped to a teacher friend of the company’s owner who was looking for an easy to use, and clean up after, clay for his students to use. The kids loved it, even though it only came in an ugly off-white. Bright coloring was added and packaging was made to appeal to children. Play-Doh has remained largely unchanged since.

ChapStick

The lip balm was invented by a Virginia doctor in th mid-1800s, with the waxy substance sold in tinfoil wrapped packaging. The physician continued with his company, but it struggled, and in 1912, the doctor sold the recipe to John Morton for $5. Morton and his wife made batches of the stuff in a bathtub, and it sold well. Sales really took off when Frank Wright Jr. was commissioned to create the iconic ChapStick logo that is still used today.

It has been said that sometimes the success of a product is part inspiration and perspiration. Sometimes it is luck. Don’t rely on luck to protect your small business. Talk to us about a small business insurance plan to protect your company. Contact us for your free quote today.

Incredibly Successful Businesses Started by Women

Incredibly Successful Businesses Started by Women

It is estimated that there are over 11.5 million businesses in America that have been started by women, creating about $1.7 trillion in sales. Here are some of the most successful businesses that have been started by women.

Rent the Runway

This company was started after one of the founder’s sisters paid over $2,000 for a dress to be in a wedding. Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss started the huge fashion dress rental company in 2009 as an alternative to buying expensive formal gowns. Today it is estimated to be valued over $1 billion.

Bumble

This dating app company was started in 2014 by Whitney Wolfe Herd. Her story is unique in that she was a co-founder and VP of marketing at Tinder, but sued the company for sexual amassment and was forced to leave. Bumble is estimated to be worth in excess of $1 billion.

23andMe

Who would have thought this genetic testing company would turn into a $2.5 billion company?

The idea was launched by Anne Wojcicki as a way to determine a person’s risks to contract certain diseases. Today it reunites long-lost or unknown relatives and even has been responsible for solving crimes.

Eventbrite

Julia Hartz and her husband started the meeting planning in 2006, and it is now estimated to be worth in excess of $2.5 billion. They got a nice boost by selling some 60,000 tickets to a Black Eyed Peas concert in Central Park. They continue to promote and sell tickets to a wide variety of events.

Along with the many successful businesses started by women, women have lead and continue to lead some of America’s largest and most successful companies including Regal Cinemas, General Dynamics, Hershey Company and General Motors.

If you are a woman starting a small business, even from home, we can help protect your efforts and your assets with a small business insurance program to fit your budget. Getting started is as simple as contacting one of our independent business insurance specialists and having a conversation about your company. They can help design a program to fit your company, your goals and your budget. Contact us for a no obligation quote today.