How to Handle Negative Online Feedback

Any business that deals directly with the public knows the frustration. Satisfied, happy customers rarely make a comment. The occasional unhappy customer is all to willing to tell the world. Today, that includes the possibility of leaving a negative review online. For a while, businesses felt it was better to just ignore the haters and focus on more pleasant interactions. That, however, can be a mistake. Here are some of the things you can do to handle negative online feedback and comments.

Don’t Ignore Them

Negative comments can have a long shelf life online. It is generally not a good idea to ignore negative comments or feedback. At the very least you want to acknowledge these comments. This acknowledgement accomplishes several things, including demonstrating that you are paying attention to your reviews and are responsive to your customers.

Reach Out and Have Them Contact You

Don’t try to win a debate online. Instead, acknowledge the experience and ask that the person reach out directly to you. This way you can handle the issue one-on-one, away from a public forum.

Ask What They Want

Once someone with a negative experience reaches out, hear them out. Part of the conversation may include “What would you like me to do?” If it is a simple and reasonable request that seems like it will resolve the issue, do it. If it is an unreasonable request, counter with an offer that you are comfortable making. Let them know you would like to resolve the issue.

Encourage Positive Feedback

Don’t be afraid to ask satisfied customers that you would appreciate positive feedback online. Many are willing to share positive experiences when they are politely asked.

Business owners, especially small business owners, have to wear many hats. This may include online reputation management. If you haven’t searched your business name or category online recently, you should know that your competitors and potential customers likely are. Be proactive in managing your online reputation or find a trusted employee who can.

Business insurance can’t protect you from negative online feedback, but it can help protect your business from a series of other unfortunate events. Let us help find you an affordable business insurance plan. Contact one of our independent insurance agents for a quote today. We will be happy to do the shopping for you.

The Power of Great Questions

Can you name three qualities that make a question powerful and thought-provoking?

Did you see what we did there?

Great questions are a powerful tool in hiring, selling and in uncovering needs and desires. Great questions keep your subject thinking and maintains the focus on them. They can often cause some people to “think out loud” providing unedited answers that may be more truthful.

What makes an exceptional question? Here are a few thoughts.

They are open-ended.

Few thoughtful questions can be answered with a yes or no. “Are you happy?” is not nearly as thought-provoking as “What three things could you do this week to improve your life?”

They may be designed to get more than one answer.

In the above example, you are specifically asking for “three things”. That makes it more though-provoking than just “What could you do…” You need to be cautious not to ask a question that becomes too complex, however.

They should have a sense of urgency.

Setting a time-frame within your question can help create a sense of urgency and importance. “What three things could you do this week…” is an example.

They may demonstrate the negative impact of inaction.

If you are attempting to make a potential client uncomfortable with his present situation, powerful questions can help. “What would you do if a new competitor went into business tomorrow?” or “What happens if you don’t start getting more customers?”

They often can provide good insight into what’s important to a person.

“Tell me about an achievement you accomplished in the past 30 days that made you proud of yourself?” may be a good question for a potential hire. Hypotheticals often provide good insight, like “If you could spend 30 minutes talking to any person, dead or alive, who would it be?”

They provide valuable information.

“How does your family spend its free time?” could be a good question for a car salesman or a real estate agent.

Great questions also say something about those who ask them. They say you care about the person you are talking to and are interested in their thoughts. There’s something rewarding hearing “Wow, that’s a terrific question. Let me think for a minute.”

Are you doing everything you can to protect your business from competitors? What about from losses due to theft or vandalism? How could your small business be impacted if you lost a large case in a slip and fall claim? Are you aware of all the ways business insurance can help and how affordable it can be?

Did you see what we did there?

Contact us for your no obligation business insurance review and price quote today.

Is Your Company Built For The Long Run?

If you have recently started or are considering beginning a business, experts will suggest you set a strong foundation and build your company for the long run. Sure, there will be challenges, sacrifices and compromises, but the goal is not just to start a business, it is to build and develop it. Here are some factors to consider when building your business for the long run.

Have Goals

You obviously want to set goals and have benchmarks in your business plan. Income, customer acquisition and margins are all areas ripe for goal setting. Of course, a critical part of this is tracking your progress. Include personal bests as you achieve them.

Know Your Long Term Outcome

Your goal should be more long-term and more defined than just ”making a good living.” Do you want to build a company to hand down to children? Sell for retirement? Maintain to produce jobs? Would you like to franchise? Having a clearer vision of the long-term future can help you better achieve it.

Build Your Brand

Every day you should focus on building your brand. This accumulates value in your name and in your organization. This is why professional marketing advice can be so advantageous early on.

Commit to Keeping Up with Knowledge and Technology

Building a business for the long run includes a level of commitment to keeping up with the latest advancements, trends and technology. Many companies started out running into the lead only to fall behind in their knowledge or use of technology. Keeping up is so much easier than trying to catch up.

Protect What You Are Building

We can be so consumed by selling, keeping up with competitors and day-to-day aspects of our business we may not pay the necessary attention to protecting it. Every business is subject to liability claims and protecting your increasing assets is critical. Get started with a basic, affordable business insurance plan and keep it updated as your business grows.

It may be hard to find the room in your budget for a business insurance plan when starting, but it is vital if you are building your business for the long-term. Contact one of our independent business insurance experts to discuss your business, your goals and how we can help minimize your risks. Contact us today and let us partner in your protection.

Pros and Cons of Having a Family Business

Family operated companies have long been part of the backbone of American business. Many large companies and corporations started as mom and pop shops and many father and son teams have gone on to build successful enterprises. Ford Motor Company, Marriott International, Nike and even Wal-Mart were all family owned businesses.

Anyone who has ever had or worked for a family owned business knows that having family members working together offers some benefits and unique challenges. Here are a few of them.

Pros

The pros of operating a family business begin with an involved, interested and hopefully loyal workforce. Family members are frequently willing to work long hours for the greater good, and work for less than what an outsider may. They may also be more willing to bypass a pay increase in tough times, or at least defer pay. Generally, family members can be trusted to operate on the best interest of the company.

Because family members know each other better, they can work closer and may communicate better. Decision making is often easier and learning curves faster. There is also a great sense of accomplishment when a family works together in creating a successful business.

Of course, the long term benefits of building a successful family business includes financial security and more flexibility in working hours as the business succeeds.

Cons

As you can imagine there are plenty of negatives to balance the positives in operating a family business. Since family members are closer, they may bring more drama into the workplace. At the same time, work problems can find their way back home, often negatively impacting relationships. While family members can be more loyal to the business, they may also take advantage of their position in the company. Because family members often become part of a company due to their last name and not their skills level, some family operated companies can lack in specialized talents. It is also common for non-family employees to struggle in finding their place in a family owned company.

If you have a family owned business, we can help protect your assets and your business.with a business insurance plan to suit your company and your budget. Contact us and talk to one of our business insurance experts. Let us do the shopping for you.

8 Tips to Market Your Small Business on the Cheap

It is no secret small businesses have to do more with less. But how do you get your name out there, build your brand and bring more customers to your business on a tight budget? It takes both working harder and working smarter. Here are a few ideas.

  1. Offer referral incentives. You obviously have a list of customers and likely some pretty good ones. Put these champions to work for you by offering them some sort of incentive for referring their friends and relatives to do business with you. Incentives could be cash, gift cards, or even an entry into a drawing for a more significant prize. Try to design an ongoing program that you can maintain month after month.
  2. Get involved. The more things you can participate in, the larger your network will be. Join a civic club, volunteer for a non-profit or become a part of a fund-raising effort. Make sure you wear a golf shirt with your logo when possible.
  3. Start collecting emails. Emails are an extremely cost-effective way to promote your business. It starts by collecting email addresses from prospects by offering a discount or an entry into a drawing for individuals who are willing to provide their email addresses.
  4. Offer free expert advice. Make yourself available to speak in front of civic or senior groups. Write pertinent and timely articles for your local newspaper. Create a blog that you post on your website and promote on social media.
  5. Post your business card. Many places where people gather offer bulletin board space where you may be able to post your business card or cards. These places may include diners, grocery stores, coin operated laundry mats and more.
  6. Trade services for promotion and visibility. Depending on the products or services you offer, you may be able to barter those services for advertising and exposure. Can you offer $1,000 worth of home improvements to a local radio station for an on-air promotion? A $500 gift certificate to give away through the local newspaper’s website? Media often has unsold inventory they may be willing to barter for.
  7. Ask for help from friends and family. Don’t assume everyone thinks about you all the time. Take a few friends out for lunch and let them know you are undertaking a campaign to expand your business and could use their help. Perhaps offer an incentive or discounts. Most people are willing to help promote you when asked. Have business cards and/or pamphlets printed.
  8. Talk with other small businesses. Find out methods they found effective. You may even be able to team up with them!

Of course, you’ll want to set goals and track your efforts.

Do you have appropriate business insurance for your small company? Are you protected for liability claims, theft, vandalism and loss of income? We can help. Contact us for an insurance review and price quote. Our independent agents will go to work to find you coverage you can afford. Contact us today.

Staying Productive Working From Home

Business owners and their employees may find themselves working more frequently from home.

Working remotely has become commonplace with some surprising results. Many companies have actually seen productivity rise and employee work-balance improve through working from home.

If your business finds itself in a situation with more work from home employees, here is how they can stay more productive.

Maintain some structure to working hours. Working from home offers more flexibility than heading into the office, but workers can still benefit from set hours. They should at least be set in a range.

Find a comfortable work area with minimal distractions. A quality chair in a quiet area with minimal noise and distractions can improve productivity. Computers should be placed at a comfortable level and free from window glare.

Eat healthy. Working from home can lead to some energy draining, unhealthy eating habits like frequent snacking and a dependence on coffee or soft drinks. Keep healthy snacks handy and increase your intake of water.

Take Breaks. A “break” isn’t necessarily just checking your social media or news websites. Instead, get up and take a walk or stretch. Just like you would take a break at work to refresh physically and mentally. Take breaks when working from home.

Connect with others. Working from home can lead to a sense of isolation. Reach out to coworkers to brainstorm, ask questions and even just to keep up. Maintaining these relationships is a way to maintain productivity.

Create goals and track them. A sense of achievement is critical in keeping up productivity. Set daily, weekly and monthly goals. Track your success and any personal “bests” you may achieve. In other words, keep score.

Many of the ways we operate businesses have changed recently, but not necessarily a company’s exposure to liability risks. Business insurance can help protect your assets from the daily risks they may face. No matter how large or how small your business is, our independent business insurance professionals are here to help. They have relationships with insurance companies with experience insuring businesses just like yours. Contact us today to discuss the specifics of your business and how we can help. We look forward to assisting you!

Five Bad Reasons to Bring a Partner Into Your Business

If you operate a small business, it can be tempting to reach out and have a partner join you on your journey. There are some good reasons and situations where a partner can be beneficial. There are also some bad ones. Here are five bad reasons to bring a partner on board.

  1. It will make you feel better. It sounds odd, but many people start a business or bring a partner into a business just for support. You can get support from a business organization or family, there’s usually little value in adding a partner just to have someone you can share daily successes or failures with.
  2. You need financing. If your business is struggling financially, it is best to get to the core of the real problem. Adding a partner to inject cash may only serve to prolong the process. Unless that cash is used to upgrade or fundamentally improve the company, a partner may just bring added baggage and perhaps even stress.
  3. You need help. If you need additional help at your company, hire someone or get help from a family member. Giving up part ownership of your company and perhaps even decision making power for additional labor is rarely a good idea.
  4. You need expertise. Sure, having someone with knowledge of bookkeeping or advertising could be helpful, but bringing in a partner to get that expertise could be a mistake. Instead, hire a freelancer or seek advice by joining a local business group.
  5. You feel you owe it to them. If you have a long-term, valuable employee or family member who has been a part of your company for a long period of time, it may be one thing. But this decision should not be taken lightly. It should only be done in a mature company that is on solid footing and is truly a reward for loyalty and service.

If you have a small business and have questions about business insurance, our team is here to help. We can help you find appropriate coverage at a price you can afford. Contact us today to get started!

You Might Need Business Insurance If…

As an independent insurance agency, our agents often get questions from business owners inquiring about whether they need business insurance or not. These are generally small to medium businesses who may not be aware of the risks they face every day they conduct business. You may need business insurance if…

  • You sell any products or services.
  • You accept cash and/or credit card or electronic payments.
  • You have employees.
  • You have a place of business, even if it is at home.
  • You provide professional advice.
  • You have a vehicle or vehicles you use to conduct business.
  • You maintain files that contain client’s or prospect’s personal information.
  • You provide handyman services.
  • You independently coach, teach or instruct for income.
  • You provide landscaping and/or lawn mowing services.
  • You operate under a LLC.
  • You have invested n equipment to earn money.
  • You have invested in inventory to earn money.
  • You provide child care services, even if in your home.
  • You fix cars for profit.
  • You detail cars for a price
  • You have assets you wish to protect.
  • You would suffer if earnings from your activity stopped for any period of time.
  • You own or manage multiple rental properties.

There are times when it is clearly evident an activity is a business and others when the lines may be blurred. If you are potentially placing yourself at the risk of a liability claim while conducting a for profit activity, you can likely benefit from business insurance. Even when activities are “not-for-profit” business insurance may be beneficial.

If you have questions about the affordability of business insurance or whether or not it can potentially benefit you, we invite you to contact us and talk to one of our independent agents. We can discuss your situation and your risks. We can talk about your options and if and how business insurance can protect your assets, Contact us today. No matter what your business, you may be surprised with how offordable protection can be.

Why Would I Need Business Insurance If I Don’t Have a Storefront or Inventory?

Today, more and more businesses are operating nearly completely virtually. They may have a small office or even a home office. There may be no on-site inventory or employees. Many companies just deal in services, information or consulting. This can lead to minimal expenses in labor, rent, storage and utilities. It will not however, eliminate the need for business insurance. Here are some reasons why.

Home Owners’ Insurance Will Not Protect Home-Based Businesses

A home-based business is still a business. This means your homeowners’ insurance may not cover business equipment, furniture, electronics or even provide protection in a liability claim. Home-based business insurance can be very affordable. It is not worth the risk of going without.

Even a Small Rented Office Increases Your Risk

If you conduct business out of a small, leased space your risk of being subject to a liability claim increases. If you are meeting with clients, customers or vendors on space you control, you could be held liable for any injuries that occur in that space.

Responsibility for the Actions of Your Employees

Whether you have a storefront or not, you are still responsible for the actions of your employees while they conduct business-related activities. They may be conducted off-site or in the homes of customers where you can be held liable.

Your Business Activities Could Be Interrupted

Business interruption insurance can protect your income should there be a covered claim that shuts your business down.

This could be a fire or other natural disaster.

Errors or Omissions Coverage

If you offer professional services like financial, legal or medical advice, you could still be held accountable for malpractice or errors and omissions whether you have a physical location for your business or not.

Businesses are becoming increasingly unique in how they conduct business. Video conferencing, remote workers, social distancing and work from home strategies are becoming increasing popular and accepted. These changes may alter some of the coverage you need as a business owner but you will still have risks. Our independent business insurance agents will be glad to discuss your evolving situation. Contact us today for a business insurance review and quote. You may be surprised at just how affordable a custom business insurance plan can be.

Why Your LLC Needs Business Insurance

An LLC (Limited Liability Company) is an excellent structure for a small or even medium-sized business. It is appealing because it is simple to get started and it can protect the personal assets of the business owner in a liability claim. Some business owners however, make the mistake of viewing this protection as a replacement for business insurance. Here are some reasons why your LLC still needs business insurance.

An LLC Doesn’t Protect Your Business Assets

While an LLC offers protection of your home and personal assets from claims made against the business, your business assets are still at risk. Your cash, inventory, equipment and real estate may be at risk without appropriate business insurance. Even accounts receivable may be attached in a successful claim. This can be difficult if not impossible to recover from.

An LLC Does Not Protect You From Legal Expenses

Even if a claim against your LLC is unsuccessful, it still can lead to significant legal expenses. Without business insurance, these are expenses that will have to be paid out of your cash flow or assets. Business liability insurance however, will not only pay any judgment or settlement, but any legal costs associated with the covered claim.

Even with an LLC, Personal Assets May Be at Risk

Some business owners are not aware that even with an LLC, their personal assets may still be at risk under certain circumstances. For example, if you take out a personal loan or personally guarantee a business loan. If your company is involved in some sort of illegal activity, intentional or not, your could be placing personal assets at risk. 

You should not be under the false impression an LLC provides the protection of a well-designed business insurance program. To discuss your business and where you are at risk, we invite you to contact one of our independent insurance professionals. With relationships with multiple business insurance companies, our agents can find a plan to fit your company and budget.

An LLC may provide some protections, but it is not insurance. Connect with us to learn more.