Risky Business in the North Pole: Santa’s Insurance Policy

by Ruth Awad19. December 2014 06:01

You’ve probably never stopped to think about Santa Claus from an insurance perspective, which makes sense. Where does insurance fit into the tale of flying reindeer, a merry night of parsing out toys and coal, and one seriously jet-lagged philanthropist?

But the fact remains: if Santa were a small-business owner, his risks would be plenty. See for yourself in our holiday infographic below! 

 

Infographic of Santa's Insurance Policy

Are Your New Year’s Resolutions Good for Your Business?

by Rieva Lesonsky17. December 2014 07:08

goals board

I recently read a blog post about how the tradition of New Year’s resolutions came about. It seems the month of January was named after the Roman god Janus. Janus had two faces, which allowed him to look both backward into the past and forward into the future (lucky Janus!). The Romans believed that on December 31, Janus looked into the old year and forward into the new one. This inspired them to make resolutions for the New Year and forgive enemies for difficulties in the past.

I like the idea of looking back at the past year before deciding upon your resolutions for the next one. As a business owner, I tend to put pressure on myself and set crazy, sometimes unrealistic goals. Is that healthy? Is it harmful? And when I don’t achieve my resolutions, what does that say about my commitment level?

With only 8 percent of Americans actually achieving their resolutions, I’m obviously not alone, but still I feel like it’s a good time to take stock and set some goals to make my business better in 2015. Maybe some of these resolutions will help your business, too.

  1. Do something better. Anything fits here: hire better, create better, budget better. The point is you probably made mistakes in 2014 that you don’t want to repeat. Did you forget a client’s name? Promise yourself to get better at remembering names by buying a mobile CRM app. Did your presentation not wow them like you hoped? Hire a PowerPoint expert to create your next presentation instead of trying to do it yourself.
  2. Let something go. You’re never going to learn how to code and design your own website, because frankly, you don’t have the time. Let it go, and bring in some help. Are your insurance premiums creating a major dent in your business budget? Do some research and find out what other options you have to cover your business. Sometimes letting go means letting go of your own personality flaws (we all have some), such as micromanaging or being a perfectionist.
  3. Take something on. As small-business owners, we are so busy that it’s easy to hunker down in our work and rarely look up to see what opportunities are passing us by. Maybe you always planned on making charity a part of your company’s culture, but you haven’t yet. Or you want to start an internship program so you can help build a future generation of entrepreneurs. Make it a resolution to try at least one new, outside-the-box project in 2015. It might not contribute to your bottom line, but it could be the spark in your life as a business owner you’ve been looking for.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at rieva@smallbizdaily.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.

When Does a Small Business Need Insurance?

by Brenna Lemieux15. December 2014 06:33

small-business owner in her shop

In short, you need small business liability insurance as soon as possible. But let's not be alarmist. You don't want to rush into getting insurance just because it's “fast” and “cheap.” That's a recipe for getting coverage that won't protect your company.

So how do you find adequate small business insurance at a low price? First, you need to understand the answers to the following questions:

  • Why do I need liability insurance for my small business?
  • When do contracts require small business insurance?
  • How can I find affordable liability insurance for my small business?

After answering these questions, we'll go over how you can save 10 to 20 percent on your small business coverage by working with our industry specialist agents.

Why Do I Need Liability Insurance for My Small Business?

Every day, your business is exposed to risks: customers walk through your doors, you sign agreements with clients, you operate in an office owned by someone else, you visit a client at their place of work, etc.

In each of these scenarios, something could wrong. A customer could fall down your stairs and be injured on your property. You could break equipment at a client's office. You could be sued and have to pay tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars in damages.

To cover these risks, there are multiple types of liability insurance for small businesses:

  • General Liability Insurance covers third-party (non-employee) lawsuits over property damage, bodily injuries (e.g., slip-and-fall accidents), and advertising injuries (e.g., copyright infringements).
  • Errors and Omissions Insurance (aka Professional Liability Insurance) pays for lawsuits over the work you do.
  • Workers’ Compensation Insurance (with Employer's Liability Insurance) helps pay for employee medical expenses when they're hurt on the job. It also covers lawsuits over workplace illnesses, injuries, and accidents.

To learn more about the different kinds of small business insurance, read the article, "What Do Other Businesses Buy?"

When Do Contracts Require Small Business Insurance?

When you sign a contract, you might have to provide proof of insurance (aka a Certificate of Liability Insurance). For example, you might need small business insurance in order to sign...

  • Leases.
  • Customer contracts.
  • Vendor agreements.

Before they work with you, business partners and landlords often want to know that an insurance company is standing behind your business and can pay for lawsuits or other expenses if something goes wrong.

How Can I Find Affordable Liability Insurance for My Small Business?

Be careful when looking for "cheap" liability insurance – when it comes to coverage, you truly get what you pay for. Instead of focusing on the price of the policy, the deciding factor should be how much coverage you're getting. That said, there are some ways to ensure you don't overpay for your insurance:

  1. Work with independent brokers who can get insurance quotes from multiple companies. This means various carriers compete to offer you better deals. You'll have more policies to choose from and better leverage.
  2. Bundle policies together. When you buy a Business Owner's Policy, your provider bundles General Liability and Property Insurance into one package at a reduced rate.
  3. Invest in quality insurance and don't start and stop coverage. Businesses that cancel their policies or have gaps in their coverage history are charged higher premiums in the long run.
  4. Work with small business insurance experts. Insurance brokers that specialize in small business coverage help you find protection that fits the size of your business. Even the smallest businesses running out of the owner's home can find coverage that is tailored to the size of their operation.

How Can I Save 10 to 20% on My Small Business Liability Insurance?

At insureon, we provide industry-specific insurance for small businesses and know how to find coverage at an affordable price. On average, insureon customers save between 10 and 20 percent on their premiums. To find out how much you could save, submit an online insurance application

Decoding Your Small Business Insurance Quotes

by Ruth Awad12. December 2014 07:47

man using a magnifying glass

As you may know, it’s pretty easy to apply for insurance quotes. But what about when you get the quotes? What do all those numbers mean? Never fear. You don’t need a Rosetta stone to decode your quotes – just some friendly tips so you know what you’re looking at. In this article, we’ll cover…

  1. The details your quotes include.
  2. How to compare prices.
  3. Payment options.
  4. Why it’s important to understand that quotes aren’t final.
  5. The various company names you’ll see on quotes.
  6. The benefits of starting coverage immediately.

1. Details in Your Quotes: Beyond Price

This is where you should spend the most time comparing policies. The policy with the lowest premium isn’t necessarily the best.

Each quote tells you what kind of policy you are looking at and what kind of coverage it offers. For instance, your Business Owner’s Policy quote may break down your coverages and their accompanying limits like this (minus the explanations):

Liability Coverage: Bodily Injury and Property Damage

  • $ 1,000,000: General Liability per Occurrence. This is the amount your policy can pay for any single GL claim, such as a lawsuit over bodily injuries that happened on your property.
  • $ 2,000,000: General Liability Annual Aggregate. This is the total your policy can pay for all the GL claims filed during one policy year.
  • $ 1,000,000: Personal & Advertising Injury per Occurrence. If you’re sued over copyright infringement or defamation, your policy can contribute $1 million toward legal expenses.
  • $ 2,000,000: Products Completed Operations Aggregate. If you create or sell something that causes someone physical harm, you can be held liable for the damages. Your policy can offer $2 million in coverage for legal expenses.
  • $ 1,000,000: Damage to Premises Rented to You. If you’re liable for damaging rented property, your policy can compensate the owner.
  • $ 10,000: Medical. This is what your policy can pay out in immediate medical expenses (like an ambulance) in the hopes of averting a lawsuit when someone is injured on your property or by your work.
  • $10,000: Data Breach Response. This is the amount your policy can pay to help you recover after your business suffers a data breach.
  • $50,000: Data Breach Defense. This is the amount of coverage you can receive if you’re sued over a data breach.

Property Coverage: Your Property and Your Client's Property in Your Possession

  • $500: Property Claim Deductible. You must pay this amount toward a claim in order to receive your Property Insurance benefits.
  • $10,000: Business Property. If your assets are lost or damaged in a covered event (e.g., a fire), your policy can pay out $10k for you to repair or replace the insured property.
  • $10,000: Business Computers & Media. If your computers, tablets, or smartphones are damaged or lost in a covered event, your Property Insurance can compensate you up to $10k.
  • $5,000: Laptop Computer – World-Wide. This means you can be reimbursed up to $5k if a covered event destroys your laptop, even if it happens while you’re out of the country.

If this particular policy costs $635 or so in annual premiums, you can see that you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck. You even get some Cyber Liability protection thrown into the mix – no small beans for a business operating in the time of data breaches galore.

Your quotes might also include concise explanations of whether the policy meets the requirements in your client contract (if applicable). For example, you might see something like, “Meets contract requirement for Commercial General Liability Insurance.”

Lastly, here are some key words you’ll need to understand when looking at policy limits and coverages:

  • Per occurrence: the highest amount your policy will pay out for any single claim.
  • Aggregate: the total your policy will pay out for all the claims in a single policy period (usually a year).
  • Deductible: the amount you’ll pay out of pocket before you can receive your insurance benefits.

2. How to Compare Quote Prices: Apples to Apples

If you’re shopping around for General Liability Insurance, you may receive quotes for both Business Owner’s Policies (which bundles GL, Property Insurance, and other policies together) and standalone GL policies. You’ll want to be sure to compare BOPs to BOPs and standalone GL policies to other standalone GL policies.

But even if you are comparing the same types of policies, don’t assume they all offer the same coverage. Coverage offerings vary drastically from provider to provider – read carefully so you know what you’re getting. Remember: the amount and kind of coverage you get should be the primary deciding factors in which offer you choose.

3. Payment Options: Now or Later

At the end of each quote, you will probably see some verbiage along the lines of, “Payment options available are single, 2, 4, or 10 payments.” If you’ve never bought small business insurance before, it may seem like a no-brainer to choose to spread out your payments over the year. But there are some pros and cons to each approach:

  • One payment: This means you’ll pay your entire yearly premium in one fell swoop. Though it may seem like a lot of money to pay upfront, you can usually save money with this option.
  • Two, four, or 10 payments: You’ll pay in this number of installments, but usually, you’ll have to pay a certain percentage of the premium in the first installment, then the remaining cost will be divided up evenly over the rest of the installments. In total, you’ll end up pay a little more with this option, but you’re not putting up a big chunk of change all at once.

Ultimately, if you can comfortably pay your premium all at once, go for it. It’s one less bill to account for from month to month. But if you don’t have a lot of money on hand, the installments may be the better option.

To learn more about budgeting for your insurance needs, read, “How an Insurance Agent Can Help Small Business Cut Insurance Costs.”

4. Quotes Are Not Final (But They’re a Pretty Good Guess)

Your quotes are generated based on the information you include in your application. If you misunderstand a question (language from insurance carriers can sometimes be unclear) and put in inaccurate information, your quote may change when an agent helps you update your answers.

It’s rare for a quote to change dramatically, unless the information in your quotes was very inaccurate.

5. The Meaning of All Those Company Names

Don’t be surprised if you see other company names on your quotes even though you applied through insureon. Those other companies you see are the insurance providers – the companies that issue the actual policies. Insureon, on the other hand, is your insurance agency – the business that negotiates and works with the insurance company on your behalf.

You may see a “rating” under the provider’s name, something along the lines of, “The Hartford, AM Best Rating of A (Excellent).” That rating denotes the company’s financial solvency. In this example, the company received a very high rating, which means it’s very unlikely to default when you need to draw on your coverage to cover a pricey claim.

6. Benefits of Starting Coverage Immediately

The other nice thing about your small business insurance quotes? Most of them give you the option to get covered right away, even without first making a payment. Most major insurers send you an invoice after the coverage has started. For some providers, they may wait two to four weeks to bill you.

This is worth keeping in mind if you need coverage to land a big client contract. That way, you can get covered right away and worry about the financial end of it a little later (and by then, you may already have that new income rolling in!).

To learn more about comparing quotes, check out the post, “How to Compare Small Business Insurance Quotes to Get the Best Prices.”

Home-Office Hacks for Higher Productivity

by Ruth Awad10. December 2014 07:44

woman working from home

When you work from home, it can be hard to stay focused. There are dogs at your feet that need to be cuddled. You can pace around in your bathrobe and there’s no one around to think less of you. You’re the king of your castle, but absolute power corrupts absolutely. Before you know it, you’re trying to find the end of the Internet or viewing hundreds of cute animal videos. The day comes and goes in an unproductive blur, but you do know a lot more about bunnies than you did this morning (e.g., that hoppy dance of joy is called a “binky.” Who knew?).

Maybe this is an extreme example that is most definitely not written from firsthand experience. As a small-business owner, you likely have a lot more self-control than that. But when your time is already stretched thin, it doesn’t hurt to find new ways to maximize your efficiency. Your bottom line will thank you when your extra productivity translates into more output and more revenue.

Let’s take a look at some home-based office tips that shift your productivity into high gear. 

Tap into the Senses to Set the Tone for Your Workday

Lighting is one of the keys to creating atmosphere. (Just ask any restaurant owner – they know what’s up.) Cast too dim a glow, and you’ll be snoozing at your desk before lunchtime. Shine a desk lamp on your computer, and you may feel as though you’re being hunted down by a helicopter’s searchlight.

There are some simple ways you can tweak your home office to invite the spirit of productivity in. Put these quick and cost-effective tips (courtesy of this Entrepreneur infographic) to use:

  • Keep your desk near a window so you can open the curtains and let in natural light. Natural light boosts happiness and productivity.
  • Paint your office blue if you want to work harder; yellow if you have a hard time staying focused. To learn more about how color choices bring out different traits, read about the Colour Affects System.
  • Tune in to amplify your work groove. Try using a free ambient-noise generator like Coffitivity. You get the feel of working in a coffee shop, but you don’t have to invest in $6 soy lattes. Win-win. Soundtracks are also a good way to boost focus. This particular writer loves the Amélie soundtrack penned by Yann Tiersen. (You’re welcome.) For best results, try listening with some headphones. It helps you tune out the other chatter happening around you (e.g., yapping Pomeranians).
  • Use scent to reap work benefits. Search for candles or diffusers scented with lemon to promote concentration and relaxation, peppermint to boost your energy, and jasmine to reduce typing errors. Even if the effects are subtle, it never hurts to have a good-smelling office.
  • Spruce up. Plants play a prominent role in ramping up productivity, increasing creativity, and promoting a sense of wellbeing. Plus, isn’t your office looking a little bare, anyway? Perch a snake plant on your desk to purify the air and boost your mood and focus.

Easy Ways to Get Your Head in the Game

Hey, your office looks good! Is that jasmine I smell? Wait, why are you still watching bunny binky videos on YouTube? The Internet isn’t going anywhere.

Ah, I spy a few problems. Let’s take a look at your desk and see what you can do to stay focused and get work done:

  • Stand up. By now, you’ve probably heard about how much a drag sitting can be on your mind and body. Sitting for extended periods of time has been linked to weight gain, repetitive stress injuries, bad posture, and low productivity. So maybe it’s time to invest in a standing desk. Pro-standers claim they feel more active throughout the workday, get more work done, and have better focus (for more on that, check out this Business Insider article).
  • Swap your coffee for water. Or at least supplement your massive caffeine intake with water, you fiend. According to the National Hydration Council, dehydration is one of the biggest productivity killers. If you don’t drink enough water, you may feel sluggish, unable to process information quickly, and have a difficult time concentrating. To improve your concentration, alertness, short-term memory, and overall productivity, be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to eat some healthy snacks!
  • Don’t compulsively check your email or social media. Take thirty minutes to an hour each morning to check and respond to emails and to update your business’s social media pages. After that, refuse to check your email until the end of the workday. This can be a tall order for even the most disciplined home-business owners, so don’t feel bad if you need a little help. Use Inbox Pause, which literally pauses your inbox so you’re not constantly battling those distractions throughout the day.
  • Clean your desk. Think of your desk as a reflection of your mind. When you need to be productive, you need a clear path to blaze. Keep the essentials at hand, and file the rest away where you can easily locate them when the time comes.
  • Create (and stick to) a routine. Though you work from home, you still need to treat your time like any other workday if you’re going to get stuff done. Wake up at the same time each day, and swap your bathrobe and slippers for actual work attire. It’s a little psychological trick that makes you feel more professional and focused.
  • Plan your days and assign yourself deadlines. Divide up all the tasks that you need to accomplish for your workweek. Give yourself daily tasks and allot an amount of time to finish each task. Though it can be hard to take these timetables seriously (you are the boss, after all), giving yourself a set schedule helps you avoid Internet wormholes when you have marketing materials to generate or books to balance.

Take Five to Manage Stress and Get Focused

It’s no surprise that stress is the bane of productivity. You might find yourself staring at the clock, thinking about upcoming deadlines and the hundred million things you have to get done before you can call it a day. But letting your stress demons get the better of you is a surefire way to make sure you don’t get as much done.

So take a deep breath. Relax. Impossible, you say? Try these stress-relief tips on for size:

  • Prepare yourself for the workday. Writing down what you need to accomplish can transform an insurmountable workload into manageable tasks. Though you’re still hauling through the same amount of work, making a to-do list can motivate you to manage your time and get work done quickly. It can also emotionally prepare you for your day. Plus, if there is a finer feeling than crossing a completed task off a list, I don’t know what it is.
  • Get moving. Contrary to what you may think, the butt-in-chair method doesn’t always mean you’re getting work done. Sure, you’re looking at the computer screen, but engaging with your work is another thing entirely. So instead of working through lunch like you always do, you workhorse, go for a brisk walk around the block. If it’s cold or rainy out, run in place or do some pushups. Getting your blood pumping releases endorphins, which have a whole host of benefits, such as stress relief and increased energy, focus, and productivity. Read more about the benefits of a little exercise in this Forbes article.
  • Pet a fluffy dog. Did you know that when you pet an animal, your body releases oxytocin, a feel-good bonding hormone? It naturally eases stress, helps you feel more optimistic, and reduces social fears. Plus, it’s a pretty good excuse to step away from the computer for a bit. You can read more about the ways animals help reduce stress in this article by Today.

Feeling better? For more home-office tips and trends, be sure to read our home-based business blog series.

Announcing the Fall 2014 Winners of the Small Business, Big Impact Scholarship

by Brenna Lemieux8. December 2014 07:51

graduation caps

It’s that time of year again, folks: we’re pleased as punch to announce the most recent winners of our Small Business, Big Impact Scholarship. Every semester, we invite college students to write an essay about how a small business has impacted their life. From the entries, we choose two winners to receive a $2,500 scholarship.

This semester, the essays recounted stories of family businesses, student-owned operations, small firms where students worked, and even small businesses that students had relied on so often they considered the owners family. Choosing winners wasn’t easy, but our panel of judges selected two winners.

Laura Stockman, a native of Kenmore, New York, wrote about how a project she undertook at age 10 to process her grief at losing her grandparents grew into a popular blogging program that empowers children to express gratitude and do good deeds for others. The project also led to the establishment of the WNY Young Writer’s Studio, a mentoring organization Stockman runs with her mother. When she turns 18 next year, Stockman plans to turn the studio into a nonprofit business and continue to run it to help students make a difference through the written word.

Shannon Desmond, who hails from Lewes, Delaware, wrote about how, after accepting a part-time job to earn enough money to buy a car, she discovered a love for the hospitality industry. After a few years of working at Lewes’ Half Full, a gourmet pizza restaurant, Desmond realized she loved serving people in a hospitality setting. When she starts college in the fall, she will enroll as a student at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. In the future, she plans to open a business of her own.

Both women will receive $2,500 to put toward their educational expenses.

To learn more about our winners and read their essays, visit the scholarship winners page. The Small Business, Big Impact essay competition will reopen for the spring 2015 semester on March 2, 2015. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook to receive updates about submitting to one of our future competitions.

On behalf of the entire insureon team, we want to offer our hearty congratulations to Laura and Shannon. Best of luck in college!

5 Trends You Need to Know About for 2015

by Rieva Lesonsky5. December 2014 08:06

pampered pomeranian

Get your business ready for the new year by familiarizing yourself with these projected trends for 2015.

Trend #1: My Business, Anywhere, USA

Because technology allows you to start a business anywhere you’d like to without skipping a beat, more and more entrepreneurs are choosing to go virtual and run their businesses from home. In fact, more than 69 percent of small businesses start at home. Home-based businesses tend to be more service-oriented or in the tech industry (e.g., mobile app development), but you can easily start an ecommerce store from home, too. Just make sure you have all the right tools such as project management software, cloud storage, and mobile technology.

Trend #2: Rain, Rain, Where Are You?

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, several states are experiencing an abnormal period of drought at the moment. Lawn care and landscaping businesses should not fret, though, because native landscaping is all the rage lately. Native planting means planting and designing yards according to the natural weather conditions of a climate. In California where I live – a state that has been particularly hard-hit by drought – many areas offer a rebate program to homeowners who replace their water-wasting lawns with more sustainable solutions. The trend carries over to cold-weather states, too, where landscapers plant native cold climate shrubbery and flowers.

Trend #3: Are We Not Men?

Salons and personal care services aren’t just for women anymore. Men, too, are spending disposable income on beauty products and services. Market research company Mintel reports men’s grooming products and services are experiencing year-over-year growth. Especially popular are the products and services that promote ease of use and functionality. Men get manicures and pedicures, buy moisturizers, and in 2013, for the first time, men spent more cash on male-specific toiletries than on shaving products.

Trend #4: Barking Up the Right Tree

People love their pets. They love to dress them up in Halloween costumes and pamper them in fancy pet spas. The shift in mindset where pet owners treat their pets like children comes from the shift in demographics – people are waiting longer to have children and more empty nesters are filling the void with furry “kids.” Spending on pets hit nearly $56 billion last year, according to The New York Times. Hot trends now include products to help overweight pets, organic pet food, pet training, and pet therapy.

Trend #5: Aging in Place

Most aging Americans don’t want to have to leave home to move into an assisted living facility. As seniors stay put, it will have a big effect on housing, healthcare, and financial businesses. That doesn’t mean real estate will suffer, either – new neighborhoods are being constructed so the aging can move into smaller homes without having to leave their towns. And because homes often need retrofitting to be safe for seniors, the trend is good news for remodelers and contractors, too.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at rieva@smallbizdaily.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.

What Is Subrogation?

by Ruth Awad3. December 2014 08:01

two people figuring out a car accident

When your insurer pays for losses on your behalf then assumes your legal right to sue another party that may have caused the damages in the first place, that’s subrogation. It’s a hard concept to wrap your head around, so we’ll look at an example.

First things first: in insurance subrogation, there are three parties involved:

  • The insured.
  • The insurer.
  • The party responsible for the damages.

Say you file a claim on your Commercial Auto policy after a speeding Escalade runs a red light and strikes your insured work truck. Your insurance provider pays for the cost of repairing your truck. But after the claim is settled, the provider seeks reimbursement for those costs from the Escalade owner’s insurance carrier. In this instance, your insurer is taking your place under the rights of your policy – the very definition of subrogation – so that it can be compensated for its losses.

So:

Escalade hits your truck. You collect damages from your insurer. Your insurer seeks compensation for the payout from the Escalade driver (or the driver’s insurance provider).

Simple enough, right? It makes sense that your insurance provider wouldn’t want to lose money, especially when there’s a way it can get compensation from a party that contributed to the damages. But what’s all this about the provider “taking over your rights?” Does that mean you could feasibly have your provider pay for a claim and sue the other driver’s insurance company for the damages, too?

Technically, you could, but then you would be overcompensated. When that happens, your insurance company can recover from you the amount it paid for your claim – i.e., take it back after you get a court settlement. Chances are your provider has a lot more money to invest in a legal team to argue this point, so it’s probably not a smart (or simple) way to go.

Does Subrogation Benefit the Policyholder?

Subrogation might sound like messy legal business, and you’d be mostly right to think this way. But it does have benefits for policyholders. The money from subrogation goes directly to an insurance provider’s bottom line, which isn’t surprising. But here’s where it gets interesting for you: if you work with an insurance company that has an effective subrogation department, the extra cushion means your provider may be able to offer you lower premiums.

Think about it: when an insurance provider has a chance of earning back some of what it pays in benefits, it’s losing less money overall, which means it has to bring in less in the form of premiums.

To learn more about saving money on your insurance, check out our blog series on insurance saving tips.

Subrogation in Action: Not Always Roses for the Insured

According to Pierce College’s news site The Roundup, the LA Community College School District (LACCD) made a last-minute demand for a subrogation letter that forced a nonprofit to cancel its free HIV testing drive that was scheduled during Pierce College’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Week.

Here’s what went down: the LACCD required the nonprofit organizations BIENESTAR and AIDS Health Foundation to sign a letter of subrogation regarding their Workers’ Compensation Insurance coverage. In essence, the letter would keep the nonprofits’ insurance providers from going after LACCD if nonprofit workers were injured at Pierce during the drive.

To put our new word to use, let’s imagine how subrogation would work in that scenario. Say during the HIV-testing drive, a nonprofit employee tripped over a box of supplies and hit her head on the parking lot pavement. She makes a claim on the nonprofit’s Workers’ Comp policy, and the provider covers…

  • The medical expenses related to her work injury.
  • Replacement wages during her recovery.

If the insurance provider didn’t sign that letter of subrogation, it could sue the university over the worker’s injury to recover what it paid out on the Workers’ Comp claim. After all, the injury happened on the university’s property, so the insurer could argue that the university failed to make its premises safe for others. But if the insurer did sign the subrogation letter, it can’t sue the university to recoup losses.

Though the Workers’ Comp carrier agreed to the letter, it wasn’t going to do so without a charge based on BIENESTAR’s payroll. In the end, the cost was too much for the organization’s already tight budget, so the mobile testing event had to be cancelled, much to everyone’s dismay.

If there’s one takeaway from this story, it’s that insurance can be tricky, and if you want to thoroughly understand your policy, you need to work with an insurance agent. Your agent can guide you through all this murky legal stuff and help ensure that you have the appropriate coverage in place for the events your small business hosts. If a venue throws you an insurance curveball days beforehand, your agent can handle it for you and take that extra worry off your plate.

Need guidance now? Get in touch with an insureon agent at 800-688-1984.

Read This Post, Save $14,000

by Ruth Awad1. December 2014 08:30

lack of disabled access

When it comes to lawsuits, small businesses have been around the block before. In fact, the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform reports that in 2010, small businesses shouldered $105.4 billion of the nation’s tort liability costs. Throw malpractice lawsuits in the mix, and that number soars to $133.4 billion. (For perspective, larger businesses only paid out about $30 billion in lawsuits.)

So maybe the last piece of news you want to hear right now is that it’s easier than ever to sue small businesses over violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The act is intended to protect people with disabilities from being discriminated against for public services and employment, but it seems small-business owners are bearing the brunt of ADA-related customer lawsuits.

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, this year, plaintiffs filed 1,939 lawsuits against small businesses, citing violations of the ADA’s accessibility requirements. In Florida, Arbetter Hot Dogs Miami settled a disabled-access lawsuit to the tune of $10,000 in renovations and $14,000 in legal fees.

But that doesn’t mean you should let fate sort out whether your business will meet a similar outcome. If your small business is open to the public, you could save a lot of money in legal fees ($14k or more, even) by initiating accessibility upgrades on your own.

Does Your Small Business Have to Comply with ADA Accessibility Guidelines?

Perhaps $10k in renovations just isn’t in the cards for your budget. That’s no small chunk of change, especially if you’re a one-person operation. At the same time, if your business gets a lot of foot traffic, forgoing accessibility revamps could make your business a prime target for lawsuits.

Plus, there’s the fact that if your business is a public accommodation, Title III of the ADA states that you must provide reasonable access to amenities and services. You might be surprised by just how many types of businesses can be classified as public accommodations:

  • Restaurants, bakeries, and bars.
  • Grocery stores and food markets.
  • Hotels and motels.
  • Retail stores.
  • Financial institutions and banks.
  • Laundromats.
  • Legal offices.
  • Healthcare providers.
  • Public transportation.
  • Recreation venues.
  • Education facilities.
  • Social service centers.
  • Gyms.
  • And more.

Chances are that if you allow clients and customers to enter your place of business, you must comply with accessibility regulations.

Outfox the Lawyers: Upgrade Your Business to Meet Accessibility Standards

Instead of thinking of accessibility renovations as a financial burden, think of them as an opportunity to reach more customers. After all, more than 50 million Americans have disabilities, and making your business as inclusive as possible could be a real selling point and generate good PR.

So what are some things you can do to make your building accessible to all? Consider the following:

  • Remove barriers, such as a step to an entrance.
  • Provide accessible parking spaces.
  • Provide an accessible route that allows customers using mobility devices to access goods and services (e.g., make sure aisles and hallways are wide enough).
  • Install lower counters so customers in mobility devices can comfortably reach them.
  • Install power-operated doors.
  • Make material available in accessible formats (e.g., Braille, audiotape, or large print).

To go the extra mile, train your staff in common accessibility issues so they are ready to help customers and clients of all types. For example, you may hire an interpreter if your business specializes in complicated, professional transactions. Or maybe you could simply offer curbside assistance. For more help, check out the guide, “ADA Update: A Primer For Small Business.”

If you need more incentive to comply, the IRS offers a Disabled Access Credit (Section 44) on the alterations small businesses make to meet ADA regulations. So long as your business has 30 or fewer full-time employees or makes $1 million or less in revenue, you may be able to deduct the expenses your business spends accessibility renovations.

Setting Holiday Hours for Your Business

by Rieva Lesonsky26. November 2014 06:18

holiday clock

Wouldn’t it be great to work fewer hours during the holiday season or even shut down your business for a week or two? Wasn’t part of the reason you started your own business so that you could set your own hours?

Of course, reality is a whole different story – especially if you’re a retail entrepreneur. However, many B2B or service businesses experience a customer slowdown during the holidays. If yours is one of them, here are five tips for adjusting holiday hours that may work for you.

  1. Take off the same days and hours as your clients. Ever notice how some companies completely close for the holidays? If you find yourself making calls and no one’s answering, this may be the case with your clients. There’s nothing wrong with asking ahead of time if your clients are taking any time off or closing their offices over the holidays. Even if you decide to stay open, you’ll know not to bother connecting during their off time.
  2. Prepare your clients. It seems obvious, but it bears repeating: let your clients know if you plan on changing your hours over the holidays. Post something about holiday hours on your website, on your social media platforms, and at the bottom of every email. Provide a personal cell number or email for emergencies for the most important clients. As a last precaution, call or email clients to see if there is anything else they need before you close.
  3. Prepare your employees and virtual workers. If you’re planning on closing the business or shortening hours during the holidays, it could mean financial hardship for your hourly employees. Let them know as far in advance as you can when you will close so they can save money for the time off. You can also allow some employees to keep working if they need to catch up on projects.
  4. Save money. Long before the holidays, you should plan for less holiday income so your cash flow situation doesn’t hurt your business. Talk to your accountant to figure out the best way to handle holiday non-sales.
  5. Have extended hours before you enact the new schedule. To make clients and employees feel better about shortening hours or shutting down, extend your work hours in the weeks before the holidays. That way you can tie up any loose ends before everyone takes off.

Looking for more ways to thrive during the holidays? Check out the post, “The Holiday Season Starts Now.”

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at rieva@smallbizdaily.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.

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