6 Ways to Keep Your Small Business Safe

Safety can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. In the business world, the perception of safety can mean a lot of things to a lot of different business owners. What it takes to properly protect your business should be something that is taken very serious by all of the decision makers within your business. Safety can mean securing the property at night when you are away from the building or it can mean properly training your employees to use the equipment they will be using as part of their job. It can even be having the proper policies in place to prevent your business from a data breach. There is a laundry list of things that can be included in your businesses strategy to properly keep your business safe. Here are 6 strategies to keep in mind when protecting your small business.

Hire the right people

It may seem obvious, but the people you hire are your most precious asset. Making sure they are the right people can go a long way towards the safety of your business. There are many ways you can go about checking up on your applicants. Criminal background checks, motor vehicle driving records, investigating their references and checking their college transcripts are all great places to start. Sometimes you will have to rely on your gut reaction to them from an interview, but taking extra time to make sure the people you hire are the right people will start your business off on the right foot when attempting to keep your business safe.

recruiting-new-employeeshire

Train people effectively in the first place

Once you have hired the correct people for your organization it is not enough to just set them loose. You must properly train them in the art of protecting your business the way that is best for your organization within your industry. and think everything in your business will remain secure. They need to know what is important to your organization and how you expect them to conduct business. This may seem obvious, but far too many business owners forget this part of their organization. An employee in HR or Marketing might be coming to you from another industry. They may not see the potential risk that exists for your business in your industry. Take the financial services industry for example. This industry deals with every bit of a customers’ sensitive information, most importantly their financial accounts. If they are coming from another industry where the business does not have access to these types of materials’ they may not fully understand the need to safeguard everything they do. Another industry, like commercial cleaning, has risks where they are allowing employees in to a business after hours when they are the only people in the facility. This opens up the possibility for theft or access to internal computer networks. Training new employees properly will prevent risks from getting out of hand later.

Have well-documented, well thought out Safety Programs

Safety programs entail a lot depending on your business. Don’t be afraid to make them more or less extensive based on the needs of your business. It should start during the initial training/onboarding process for all employees. If you make it clear to them from the beginning that safety is important to your business than they will implement this in to their daily work routine. Like many things in life it is always easier to start tight and loosen up than to start loose and try to tighten up later. That works for a safety program as well.

Defensive Driving Class

Defensive Driving Program

Having a Defensive Driving Program in place can make drastic difference in the frequency and severity of accidents that occur among your employees. If you have employees that operate a vehicle as part of their job they need to have their driving record pulled at least once a year. As part of the hiring process, many businesses require employees to pay for the driving record themselves. This can help weed out applicants with the worst driving records. It saves you time and money on the front end from going through the hiring process with someone who will not be getting the job because of their driving record.

Buying the proper insurance.

Having proper insurance is essential to any good business plan. How much and what types of insurance a business needs, is completely dependent upon the business owner. It depends on how much risk they are comfortable taking and what types of risk they actually face. This is something a good independent insurance agent can help you determine. Many business owners face risks they do not realize and that is where having a long honest conversation with your agent can help you get properly insured. In most states and in most industries it is legally required to carry Workers Compensation and General Liability Coverage. But there are several other coverages that may be necessary depending upon the industry you operate in. Most carriers have programs set up for each specific classification code and they are called Business Owners’ Policies. In most cases this is the best way to go about purchasing commercial insurance.

Take cyber security seriously

Cyber security is a real threat to nearly all businesses. Regardless of how technologically advanced your business is there is a threat in the cyber world. Two of the largest data breaches in history were first started by small businesses first being hacked and allowing access to a larger network of customers through a vendor partnership. Many business owners think data breaches occur through highly technological criminals hacking in to a computer. That is the source of many data breaches, but many start with something as simple as someone leaving out a post-it note with their username and password or an employee taking a laptop home for remote work and the laptop getting stolen out of their car. Those are real risks that any business can have and they can cause a huge cost to your business when they do happen.

Get the best answers to Cyber Security questions for small business owners here at my insurance question.com

20 terms you need to know when purchasing or renewing commercial insurance

For many business owners, purchasing insurance is a foreign concept. Like many industries there are terms only the insiders know and they frequently use when discussing the policies. Here is a list of 20 terms that will give you a leg up the next time you are purchasing or renewing your commercial insurance policy.

 20 commercial insurance terms to be aware of the next time you look to buy small business insurance.

Insurer –  a person or company that underwrites an insurance risk; the party in an insurance contract undertaking the risk to pay compensation.

Insured –  a person or organization covered by an insurance policy.

Peril –   the possibility that you will be hurt or killed or that something unpleasant or bad will happen.  exposure to the risk of being injured, destroyed, or lost.

Premium –   An amount to be paid for an insurance policy. It is an amount paid periodically to the insurer by the insured for covering their risk.

Deductible –  A deductible is the amount you have to pay out-of-pocket before the insurance company will cover your remaining costs. 

1st person liability –  First person liability is for damage that is done to you or your business. A good example of this would be a commercial property insurance policy. This policy covers the damages to you and your property. It does not cover the damage to another persons’ property or if they are hurt on your property.

3rd person liability –  Third person liability is liability that you or your business has to other third parties. Third parties can include customers, vendors, other businesses or anyone who may be harm by the actions of you or your business.

 Claims-made policy –  A policy written on a claims-made basis means that if the insurance is in place when the claim is made, but not when the occurrence took place than the insurer responsible for the claim is the insurer when the claim is made. This is common for professionals like a lawyer or an engineer. In these professions a claim is frequently filed months if not years after the occurrence takes place. At that time the insured may have coverage with a different company and there may be some discrepancy between who is responsible for the claim.

Occurrence based Policy –  A policy written on an occurrence basis means that the insurer responsible for the claim is the insurer who was in place when the occurrence took place. If an engineer works on a house and there is a problem with the house years later than the insurer responsible for the occurrence is the insurer that was in place when the occurrence took place.

 Endorsement –  an endorsement is a document attached to an insurance policy that amends the policy in some way. An endorsement may add, remove or alter the scope of coverage under the policy.

Negligence –  Negligence in relation to insurance means a person or business did not demonstrate appropriate amounts of care or responsibility for a particular situation. The failure to take appropriate precautions can cause you to be considered liable for the damage.  This can also be referred to as the failure to use a degree of care considered reasonable under a given set of circumstances. Liability policies are designed to cover claims of negligence.

Named Insured –  Any person, business or organization who is specifically named as an insured on an insurance policy. This is different from entities who although unnamed may fall within the policy definition of an insured.

Ordinance or Law Coverage –  Coverage for loss caused by the enforcement of an ordinance or law regulating construction and repair of a damaged property. Older structures that are damaged may need to be upgraded in regards to electrical, plumbing, venting, etc. A typical commercial property insurance policy does not pay for these additional cost. This policy is an endorsement on top of your commercial insurance policy and will cover the additional costs needed to bring the new building up to date.

A 'Hammer Clause' is a provision within an insurance policy that gives the insurer the right to settle for an undisclosed amount and if the insured does not agree to the settlement than they take on some or all of the risk. Hammer Clause –  A ‘Hammer Clause‘ is a provision within an insurance policy that gives the insurer the right to settle for an undisclosed amount and if the insured does not agree to the settlement than they take on some or all of the risk. In some cases, the insured takes on all of the risk, but in many cases it is 70/30 or 50/50.

The Assigned Risk Provider (Also known as the pool or the state fund) –  The assigned risk provider applies to workers’ compensation coverage. It is the provider of last resort within each state for businesses who cannot obtain coverage on the open market. The business may not be able to obtain coverage for a number of reasons. Typically, it is because of the small size of the company or because of their loss history. The Assigned Risk Provider offers coverage at a higher rate and typically once you are in the pool you must stay in the pool for 2-3 years.

Business Owners’ Package (BOP) –  A business owner’s policy, commonly referred to as a BOP, combines several lines of coverage built into one policy. They are often better suited for small business owners because they offer targeted coverage options designed for specific types of businesses within certain industries. They are usually less expensive then purchasing coverage separately because the business is purchasing multiple policies for liability, property, commercial auto, etc. 

Find out if you as an Artisan Contractors need workers compensation insurance coverage at myinsurancequestion.comArtisan Contractor –   This term refers to businesses in several different industries. It includes many occupations that involve skilled work with tools at the customer’s premises. Carpenters, plumbers, electricians, roofers and tree surgeons are some professions that would be included in this group of businesses. Also included are diverse other skilled service providers, such as interior decorators, piano tuners and exterminators.

Loss History –  Loss history is a documented history of damages or losses connected with a given asset. It is a way for the insurance carrier to determine the amount of claims your business has against an insurance policy.  They use it to determine how much premium to charge or if they are willing to take on the risk altogether. 

Inland Marine Insurance – Inland Marine Insurance is property insurance for property that is likely to be in transit over land.  Many inland marine coverage forms provide coverage without regard to the location of the covered property; these are sometimes called “floater” policies. As a group, inland marine coverage forms are generally broader than property coverage forms.

Find out if your business truly needs commercial umbrella coverage at myinsurancequestion.comUmbrella Coverage –  The umbrella policy serves three purposes: it provides excess limits when the limits of underlying liability policies are exhausted by the payment of claims; it drops down and picks up where the underlying policy leaves off when the aggregate limit of the underlying policy in question is exhausted by the payment of claims; and it provides protection against some claims not covered by the underlying policies, subject to the assumption by the named insured of a self-insured retention (SIR).

First Party vs. Third Party Liability

The difference between first party and third party liability is essential to protecting a business properly. This is one thing that many business owners frequently neglect. Many business owners see insurance as a fixed cost. Others see it as some sort of tax. Considering some of the coverages are required by law in most states it is easy to understand why some business owners look at them this way. They are also part of your overall plan to protect the long term viability of your business. At least they should be. Protecting your business from both first party and third party liability is essential to properly protecting your business.

First Party vs. Third Party Liability

The most basic example of the contrast between first and third party liability is in the four types of coverage most businesses purchase. Some of these policies are even required by law in nearly every state. These first two coverages are commercial property and commercial auto and they are examples of First party coverage. The legally required coverages are workers’ compensation and general liability and they are examples of Third party coverage. The first two represent first party coverage because they cover damages to you and your business. This would also include a coverage like inland marine coverage. The second two policies represent third party coverage because they protect your business from the third party liability to other people and organizations.  This is covers damages caused by you or your business to third parties. Third parties can include customers, vendor partners or anyone damaged by the actions of your business.

Find the answers to your questions about third party liability at myinsurancequestion.com

Workers’ Compensation and General Liability are required by law for most businesses in most states because they are liability to third parties. If businesses chose not to secure these coverages and then accidents were to occur, the only course of action for the victim would be to take the liable business to court. Because of these requirements they are frequently referred to as the ‘Exclusive Remedy’.

Other policies like those that cover a Data Breach are typically sold in tandem. Data Breach insurance is usually paired in combo as Cyber Security and Cyber Liability.  Cyber Security,  also commonly known as Privacy Notification and Crisis Management Expense Coverage,  protects damage to you and your business that result from a data breach. These costs are commonly referred to as the ‘immediate response costs’.  They could include, notifying all customers damaged by the breach, hiring a forensic expert to find the source of the breach, providing credit monitoring for those victims for up to one year (required by law in most states) and hiring a public relations firm to restore your businesses tainted image.  Cyber Liability covers your liability to third parties. These third parties can include customers, vendors or anyone else damaged by your business as a result of the data breach.

 

Hammer Clause

A Hammer Clause is usually a part of a directors and officers or errors and omissions insurance policy. The main purpose of this policy is to allow the insured to choose if they want to settle for what is offered or accepted by the “injured” party. Also known as the consent to settle provision, without this provision in a policy the insured would be at the mercy of the insurance carriers desire to settle. Frequently the recommended settlement is the better outcome financially, but the Hammer Clause can help a business determine if they want to fight the suit in court in an attempt to preserve the precious image of the company.

A Hammer Clause kicks in when the insured refuses to settle for an amount the insured recommends. In many cases the insurance carrier will recommend to settle for an amount they feel confident will be less than the defense and indemnity costs will be. The insurance carrier deals with these situations fairly frequently and they have reliable data to help them predict how much defense costs will be. Business owners do not deal with getting sued frequently. At least not if they are good business owners. The clause is typically there to encourage the business owner to settle for the recommended amount. In turn, the insured is penalized for not accepting the settlement only if the judgment amount plus defense costs exceed the amount for which the claim could have been settled. Frequently lawsuits among businesses are a time when pride and emotion can effect the judgment of many good business owners. The Hammer Clause is there to prevent this or if it does not prevent it, it spreads the risk to the business owner who is taking on the additional risk.

There are several different ways these clauses can be arranged. The most common are the Full Hammer and the Modified Hammer Clause. The Full Hammer states that if the insured refuses to settle for the recommended amount they take on the full amount of the settlement costs. The Modified Hammer is set up to give the insured the option of refusing to settle, but requiring the to still take on some of the costs if those costs amount to more than what was originally offered to settle for. Typically, if the insured refuses to settle than the costs will be shared at an amount of 50/50, but it is not uncommon for policy to go higher to a 70/30 split of the costs.

The important thing to take away from this is that Hammer Clauses exist and this is something you should always speak with your agent about. A full Hammer Clause is taking a lot of risk and it puts you at the mercy of whether your insurance carrier wants to settle quickly. For most businesses some version of a Modified Hammer Clause is what suits the  needs of the business best. This will allow you to make the decision yourself if it is worth the reputation of your business to risk losing in court, while spreading some of the risk back on the insurer.

 

 

 

Ordinance or Law

Ordinance or Law is a frequently misunderstood part of a Commercial Property Insurance Policy. It stems from the fact that when a property is damaged, usually by a fire, the commercial insurance policy will pay to return the building to the state it was before the building was damaged. The policy does not pay to rebuild the building up to new standards. Ordinance or Law comes in to place because, if there are new laws or local codes in place that the building was not up to par with, the policy will not pay to cover those additional costs. Also, Commercial Property Insurance will not pay for demolition and removal costs. If those costs are more than the value of the building, the business is liable for those additional costs.

Find the answers to your most difficult Ordinance or Law questions at MyInsuranceQuestion.com

According to the Insurance and Risk Management Institute, Ordinance or Law is “coverage for loss caused by enforcement of ordinances or laws regulating construction and repair of damaged buildings”.  Many times this issue does not get discussed in-depth when businesses purchase a policy. This is simply because your agent cannot explain every exclusion or technicality that could come up in every policy a business purchases. It is crucial for you as a business owner to carefully read over your policy and be prepared to ask questions of your independent insurance agent. That is after all why you choose them and not another agency. Many times I find that conversation is why a small business chooses to pay more in premium with one agency simply because an agent takes the time to explain a policy to the business owners’ satisfaction.  This is something to consider when you are a business owner purchasing insurance. Like most things in life, if something is the cheapest there usually is a reason for it being so cheap. It is not cheaper because it is a more comprehensive coverage. It is not cheaper because it is the best way to protect your business.  Determining how important protecting your business is to you as a business owner is something your insurance agent should be able to help you with. The amount of risk you are willing to take is unique and the agent can help you find the right type and amount of coverage for your needs.

Ordinance or Law comes in to play frequently when older buildings are grandfathered in. When they are grandfathered in, they frequently do not have to keep up with the new ordinances or local codes. When damage occurs usually the grandfathered in privilege goes with it.  In most cases if more than 50% of the building is damaged it must be demolished.  When the property must be demolished and rebuilt the grandfathered privilege goes with it as well.  At that point, the building needs to be rebuilt or remodeled up to current regulations. The commercial property policy pays to bring the building back to the state that it was before the damage occurred. It does not pay for the additional costs that are now required of the premises. Usually these upgrades involve upgraded electrical; heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC). Plumbing is a frequent problem as well.

Standard commercial property insurance policies do not cover the loss of the undamaged portion of the building. If your building is damaged 40% than the policy pays 40% of what the property value is. If you receive 40% of the property value, but it is now more expensive to build the property because of new regulations than this is not covered by the policy. On top of this, when a building is damaged more than 50% the cost to tear down the building and remove the rummage is not covered by a commercial insurance policy. Coverage for these types of losses is available by an endorsement.

Normal Commercial Property Policies include a provision granting a limited amount of building ordinance coverage. Most often this is 10%.  This amount can be increased by endorsement. These issues are the perfect reason for business owners to not rush through the purchasing process when quoting commercial insurance. When agents are asking questions and explaining extra coverages to you, trust me, they are not doing it simply to sell you additional coverage. They are attempting to have this conversation because they also frequently encounter business owners who have not purchased this coverage and have experienced a claim that is not covered by their policy. One of the best things any business owner can do is find an insurance agent the know and trust, than speak with them long and honestly about the risks their business faces. Than also speak candidly with them about how much risk you want to protect your business from.

 

Talk with your agent.

In today’s business world, time is of the essence for all business owners. When purchasing something for their business, many business owners want it done fast and cheap. They may have an inclination to rush through the buying purchase or to only focus on price. In many instances this may be wise, because their time is more valuable running the business than trying to save on buying whatever is needed for that business. When it comes to purchasing commercial insurance this is not a good idea. In this instances it is crucial for business owners to take the necessary time to have a long honest conversation with their insurance agent.

In conversations I have with agents in the insurance field, they all say rushing through the buying process is a mistake far too many business owners make. This is where a little time on the front end may cost the business owner some time away from their business, but on the back side it can save their business hundreds if not thousands of dollars when a claim does occur. During these conversations the agents are typically trying to get as much information as possible about the daily operations of your business. They understand business owners may be shopping around to more than one agency and that their time is valuable, but rushing through this process can cause your business to be under-insured or to pay too much in premium.

These problems frequently come about because business owners do not inform their agent what exactly the business does and what the business does not do as a part of their daily operations. Insurance companies are in the business of analyzing risk. It is in their best interests to assume more risk rather than less. They can only assume the risks of your business based on the information you provide them with. If you do not provide them with the enough information they frequently will assume more risk, which costs more in premium.

In most industries there are numerous industry classification codes. In most states these classification codes are determined by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI).  These classification codes separate businesses by the type of work they do or do not partake in. Take landscaping as a prime example. There are at least a half a dozen class codes for lawn care and landscaping based upon the daily operations of your business. The two most common NCCI classification codes for the landscaping industry are 9102 and 0042. 9102 is designated for lawn care or maintenance of existing lawns, where 0042 is designed for businesses that install lawns and beds. The second class code is more dangerous and has a higher premium. If you rush your agent through the quoting process, they may place you in the wrong classification code. This can cause your business to end up paying far more in premium than is necessary. These mistakes frequently get fixed during the end of term audit, but even when they do your business has still paid more in premium than was necessary. That means there is cash-flow your business could use tied up in unnecessary insurance premium.

On top of tying up cash in premium, another problem exists that a good insurance agent can help your business with. The problem they can help your business with is to understand what exactly is and is not covered under your different insurance policies. This can help you fill in coverage where gaps might exist. This is where an agent can help you determine if you need a coverage like Business Loss of Income Coverage or Data Breach Insurance. 

Business loss of income coverage is a policy that is a type of commercial property insurance coverage that kicks in when a business suffers additional loss of income suffered when damage to its premises causes a slowdown or suspension of its operations.  The damage has to be the result of a covered loss. Take for instance if your building experiences a fire. Your commercial property insurance will cover to repair the damaged building, but it will not cover your business for lost revenue while you have to be closed for repairs. This is where business loss of insurance coverage kicks in. Many businesses who fail to secure this coverage do not survive when an occurrence happens.

Data breach is another coverage that is becoming more and more necessary. Many business owners feel they are too small or do not deal with computers or customer information enough to need this coverage. Take a commercial cleaning company for example. They have 5-15 employees and clean 5 office buildings and one retail store at night while the businesses are closed. Their employees only use a cell phone and never interact with a computer. Their business owner thinks they would never need something as advanced as data breach coverage. But what if you clean the offices of a bank and an employee of the bank leaves  a post-it note on their desk with the username and password for the internal system. If one of your employees finds this they could get into the system and access the financial records of the banks customers. That is a need for data breach coverage. Two of the largest data breaches in history, Target and Home Depot, were started by hackers first accessing a small business who was a partner of the larger business that got hacked. You do not have to be a big company nor do you have to store lots of personal information in order to be a target for criminals.

All of these and other problems can easily be prevented by taking the time in the first place to speak long and honestly with your independent insurance agent. They can help you understand what risks your business because not only do they interact with business all the time when they are purchasing insurance, but they also frequently interact with business owners when the unfortunate accident occurs. From that experience they can help you prepare for when dooms day comes for your business. If you take this time to properly protect your business it can be the difference between closing your doors for a short time and closing your doors forever.

5 Myths about Commercial Auto Insurance.

Commercial Auto Insurance can be a tricky coverage for many business owners. Many think it is just like their personal auto coverage and many think it is an all encompassing policy, meaning if something happens to my business car I am covered. Right? That would be wrong and here are five examples of incorrect assumptions, many business owners make regarding their commercial auto Policy.

All of My Employees Are Covered While Driving Company Vehicles

It depends on the policy and the carrier. Some policies require you to name drivers. In some cases companies will exclude some of your employees because of their driving record. Most all carriers have an option to include all drivers. Like in all situations, it is best to consult with your agent about the limits and exclusions to your policy. That way you can be crystal clear what is and is not covered under your particular commercial auto insurance policy.

I Can Cancel My Policy During the Off Season to Save Money

You can choose to cancel your policy in the off-season if your business is seasonal. It can save your business some money on premium if you are able to store your vehicle indoors and in a secure place. If you are planning on doing this you need to be aware that the vehicles are still at risk. If there is damaged you are liable for the repairs. This damage can come from via natural causes like wind and hail damage. Damage can also come from things like vandalism or theft. If you experience any of these problems while not covered you or your business will be responsible for damages.

The Entire Premium is Due Up Front

Most companies allow commercial policies to be paid in monthly installments. Most refer to these policies as Pay as You Go.  If you have the ability to pay the full years amount up-front, many carriers do offer a discount for doing so.

Bundling is Always Cheaper

In many cases this is the case, but it is always a good idea to shop your policy around just in case. Some carriers specialize in certain coverages and some carriers change their appetite for certain industries and types of coverages. This means that if your carriers has recently taken a loss in one industry or in one type of coverage, they may not be as excited about quoting your policy. This may cause them to offer a higher rate for this one policy or for your industry. For this reason, it is important to partner with an agency who has partnerships with many carriers and can quote your policies as a bundle and individually.

If you are self employed you don’t need Commercial Auto Insurance

I drive a company car, so I don’t need my own auto insurance.
The car may be covered, but you may not. Even if your employer has coverage that provides some liability protection, it may not be enough, or you could be sued personally in a bad accident. Also if you borrow or rent a car, you should have your own protection. Being listed on another auto policy isn’t enough to protect you because business use is different. You need to purchase special protection.