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2 years ago · by · 1 comment

Why All Businesses Need Systems to Help Them Succeed

Solopreneurs, micro-businesses, and young or small enterprises sometimes take pride in flying by the seat of their pants. They believe that eschewing structured systems, policies, procedures and processes enables them to stay agile, flexible and opportunistic.
They couldn’t be more wrong. Systems are vital for all businesses – large and small.
Integrated systems ensure that diverse functions such as sales, manufacturing, research and development, distribution, servicing, accounting, and human resources are aligned.
With integrated, interconnected systems, tasks merge in a logical way and activities come together toward a common goal.
Systems allow people to be aligned around a single purpose instead of focusing on individual tasks in isolation. This helps ensure that the entire organization is in sync, delivering a consistent message, brand and experience to customers.
What’s more, well-defined processes are key to doing things better, faster, more consistently and more efficiently, as well as to pinpoint when and where things may go wrong.
Systems can prevent you from over-promising or underestimating and they can help keep you focused on your top customers and most lucrative business.
Organizational systems, policies, and processes should be:
Aligned to the organization’s goals and strategies
Responsive to changing market dynamics and economic conditions
Documented and communicated throughout the organization
Open to scrutiny and modification
Keep in mind that systems are not goals but only ways to achieve goals, so they may need to bend and flex as circumstances change or new opportunities arise. Moreover, you always need to be on the lookout for ways to streamline, strengthen, simplify or automate your processes.

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2 years ago · by · 1 comment

Protect Your E-Business with Special Insurance


Protect Your E-Business with Special Insurance

The Internet has made many things possible, and one of these is running a business from the comfort of your home. For many, the dream of becoming one’s own boss is now a reality, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need comprehensive commercial insurance. While some of your insurance needs are the same as those of a regular storefront, you also face different risks that standard insurance policies might not address.

The majority of businesses today obtain insurance coverage through a Business Owner’s Policy (BOP), which lumps several different types of policies into one plan. Luckily, this can be tailored to meet your needs; but exactly what kind of insurance does an e-commerce business need?

First, you’ll still need to invest in standard policies such as:

Property insurance

Just because you aren’t operating a physical business doesn’t mean you don’t need property protection. What if your headquarters/home were to catch on fire? This type of insurance would help pay for repairs, but it can also help cover computer issues and data loss.

Liability insurance

If someone tries to sue you, whether it’s from data loss or libel, liability insurance will help pay for defense costs as well as for settlements against you. It’s extremely important to set the appropriate limits for this coverage, as lawsuits can sometimes climb into the millions of dollars.

Workers compensation

When you hire one or more employees, it’s required in New York that you offer them workers compensation. If someone is injured while at work, this benefit pays his or her medical expenses and protects you from being sued. Make sure you check with your state board to ensure your policy meets the law’s standards.

Then there are other less common forms of insurance you should consider, including:

Intellectual property insurance

A form of liability insurance, this coverage protects you in case you’re sued for copyright infringement. Even if you’re certain your idea or trademark is 100 percent original, many claimants simply take businesses to court because they know those companies don’t have the money to pay for a court case.

Transportation insurance

Many e-commerce businesses are retail based and rely on second-party shipping and handling to transport goods. Some shipping facilities have insurance policies of their own, you need to be sure your goods are covered. This policy helps you recover from losses resulting from a failed shipment.

Business interruption insurance

Yes, it’s true the Internet never sleeps. There’s going to be a chance that a glitch could knock you offline for days; regardless it’s a natural disaster or a third-party problem. If it’s a long enough interruption, you could suffer profit losses. This type of policy can help you recover once you’re back online.

It’s important to connect with your insurance agent when searching for e-commerce insurance products. Data and Internet security is a top priority, and malware isn’t the only threat lurking around the Internet. Like the Internet, insurance has no physical presence, but when you need it, it’s there

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2 years ago · by · 1 comment

Stop Thief! Protect Your Business

Stop, Thief! Protect Against Business Burglaries

If a thief breaks into your house and steals your TV, your homeowners insurance policy usually covers your losses. But what about a business burglary?

Will insurance save you from these thieves?

Typically, yes. A business owner policy (BOP) covers theft. However, it does work a bit differently from homeowners insurance by providing additional protection business owners need.

In addition to theft, fire, and liability, a BOP includes business interruption insurance.

If a thief walks away with the tools you need for construction work, the computer required to run your office, or the inventory you rely on for sales, your policy will help cover your lost operation time. It will keep money coming in while you are unable to run your business.

But like homeowners insurance, business owner coverage offers either actual value or replacement value for reimbursement of stolen property.

If you receive actual value, you will get the worth of the item(s) minus depreciation. With replacement value, you receive the amount it will cost to replace the item. The type of coverage you have for your business helps determine the rate of the premium.

Each owner must decide which is the most cost-effective for his or her business. Consult with your agent for advice on determining what is best for you.

Regardless of coverage type, you should keep complete records of all items at your business site. This can include receipts, photos, or a video documenting what is on the premises. This will provide proof for your claim and help expedite the process.


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2 years ago · by · 8 comments

Pardon the Interruption

Please Pardon the Interruption. Back in Business Soon!


Rebuilding after a fire, earthquake, or other major event? We assume our insurance policy’s will have our back.  Thanks to a claim to your insurance carrier, you’ll be back in business before you know it.

But what about that time lag between the disaster and the grand reopening? Even with the funds to rebuild, the recovery process takes time. Not only will you have to reconstruct, but you’ll also need to replace equipment. And a few weeks – or even a few days – with a “Closed” sign in front can pose a real problem for most businesses.

It’s for this crucial time period that insurance providers offer business interruption (BI) insurance. BI insurance will compensate you for the income lost while your business is shut down; based on your financial records, you’ll receive the equivalent of the income you would have earned if the disaster hadn’t happened. BI insurance also covers operating expenses, such as electricity bills, that don’t stop while you’re rebuilding after a disaster.

Coverage is typically available as an add-on to your property insurance policy or as part of a package. You may need coverage for more than a few days, so choose a policy that is sufficient for your revenue stream, expenses, and potential downtime. Your agent can help ensure you have the proper coverage with the right policy limits for your business. With this buffer in place, your business can recover if disaster strikes.

The damage will be an interruption, not an end. And you can change your sign from “Closed” to “Reopening Today.”

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2 years ago · by · 1 comment

Commercial Insurance: One Size Does Not Fit All

commercial insurance

Commercial Insurance

The mom-and-pop shop selling daily essentials has different insurance needs from a nationwide big-box chain. But what about everything in between? And do you know where your business falls on the spectrum?

Depending on whether a business is small, medium, or large, it has different insurance needs. It may be difficult for owners to determine how to categorize their company, especially as it grows. To establish the size of your business, look at the number of employees, total sales, and earnings. Following is the breakdown of generally accepted numbers for the three size categories and the appropriate insurance for each.

Small businesses

Typically, businesses with 50 or fewer employees are small businesses. They are independently owned and operated and are not industry leaders. The small-business sector, however, is considered the engine of the economy and employs 94 million employees (some 77.8% of private sector US workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

For small businesses with fewer than 100 employees and revenue of $5 million or less, insurers usually offer a Business Owners Policy, or BOP. These standard policies are generally sufficient to provide coverage for your company against common risks. If your business has unique needs that you feel might not be covered, consult with your insurance agent to determine if you need a customized policy.

Medium-size businesses

If you employ between 50 and 1,000 staff and generate between $10 million and $1 billion, you are considered a medium-size business. This medium-size status makes you large enough to need additional insurance coverage. Insurers offer policies specifically designed for medium-size businesses that may combine liability and property coverage. Medium-size-business owners with expensive equipment or locations in several states may need specialized policies.

Large businesses

When a business has more than 500 employees, it’s considered a large business. And it faces multimillion-dollar risks. Commercial insurance policies for this level of business are customized to meet the specific needs of each company. One (or more) of the 500+ employees is likely responsible for risk management. This involves identifying areas of potential losses, recommending insurance coverage, and managing claims with the insurance carrier.

What about home-based businesses?

If you are running a business out of your home, you are likely the sole employee and are not yet generating a great deal of revenue. But this doesn’t mean you should skip business insurance. More than 500,000 American businesses are located in their owners’ homes, and many don’t carry the appropriate insurance. Homeowners insurance is often not enough to cover your home-based business; property loss or liability related to your company may require a different policy. Check with your insurance agent on the coverage you need based on the type, size, and scope of your home business.

Are you still unsure about your business size? Does your company have special services, products, or circumstances you feel might not fall into a typical category? Your agent will review your options and help ensure your business has the protection it needs.


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2 years ago · by · 1 comment

Small Businesses Need Risk Assessment, Too

risk assessment


Mitigating small-business risks essentially entails making judgments founded on the best information. Because guaranteed security is never possible for an entrepreneur, effective management of risk should be your most important goal. Therefore, you will need to adopt a system that delivers the information necessary to drive sound actions that will minimize your risk.

Informed decisions are required at small enterprises as well as in large organizations. Even though you’re a one-person operation, you can still create a basic risk assessment system. Some risks are intangible, such as harm to reputation or brand. But many can be measured quantitatively. Risk management planning focuses on avoiding the tangible risks that can imperil the functioning of your business.

Types of risk

Determining whether your financial house is built on sand or rock begins by considering the types of risks your business is exposed to.

Topping the list of risk variables to consider is your company’s current financial situation. Have a system for maintaining contemporaneous financial data that you compare to targeted projections. Know your trends for sales and profit margins, and identify the causes of fluctuations to determine if there are any red flags that could potentially trigger a business crisis.

When taking on an expansion or a new opportunity, always determine the expected risks relative to the rewards. Growth requires capital, which often means taking on debt. Compare the borrowing costs – in addition to the increased expenditures for growth initiatives – to anticipated future benefits.

What can’t be controlled are external risks, such as market conditions and industry trends. If a quantitative financial assessment reveals adverse results, the culprits could be these external risks. Although they’re beyond your control, you can still position your business for the new conditions with revised cash flow projections.

Conducting a risk assessment

Reduce the complexity of risk assessment planning by considering some basic questions. Begin by determining the direct as well as indirect risks imposed by a new project, new customer, new product, or new strategy. Next, consider the possible adverse consequences and how serious these consequences could be; know the extent of your worst-case scenario. Only you can decide what amount of risk is right for your business.

After assessing potential consequences and the financial effect they would have on your business, develop countermeasures to protect your vulnerable spots. The main element of a risk assessment plan is what to do when any potential threat morphs into a problem that could seriously impact your business. Ensure that you have action plans ready for each risk, should it become a reality.

Solid financial data is critical to risk oversight

Finally, risk management hinges on knowing in advance when one of these potential threats is about to become a danger. In risk oversight, it’s accurate, up-to-date financial data that will give you this heads-up. There’s no substitute for reliable real-time financial statements and your ability to interpret them. In doing so, you can be vigilant in evaluating risks so that your business thrives rather than topples.

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2 years ago · by · 1 comment

How to Prepare Your Business for Cyber Attacks

Cyber Attacks

Cyber Attacks Prevention

Technology creates new opportunities and options for your business. Most of these are good; some aren’t. In today’s marketplace, businesses must be prepared for cyber threats. Here are five you should watch out for:

  • Hacktivists—These tech pros are on a mission to make a political point or embarrass your company. Their actions can range from benign to seriously damaging.
  • Criminal hackers—Not to be confused with hacktivists, criminal hackers are trying to accumulate funds illegally. Think of them as online thieves. Their hope is to find a way into your system to siphon your funds.
  • Intellectual property threats—Hackers may seek out technical plans, blueprints, patents, or other secured information. This intellectual property gives them access to sensitive information at a great cost to your business.
  • Terrorism—These hackers aren’t looking for monetary gain, and they definitely aren’t playing an embarrassing prank. Terrorists may want to steal information that aids in a physical attack.
  • Disgruntled employees—The other four types of cyber threats are all external; this one operates from the inside. An unhappy employee has access to passwords and other insider information and can use his or her insider status to inflict damage on your company.

Stop hackers in their tracks

To protect their companies and their employees, business owners must be prepared for these cyber attacks. However, it’s not about trying to avoid being hacked. You should expect these cyber attacks or threats to happen; no one can avoid them entirely. The goal is to make breaches as small as possible and to act quickly to minimize damage.

Business owners should realize they can stop a hack in progress. Strong security and careful scanning can alert you to hackers’ activity. Hackers’ reconnaissance missions are often lengthy; on average, 240 days pass before they’re noticed. Try to spot them early to begin identifying who they are, what systems they’re in, and how you can cut them off.

Contain and act quickly

Once the hackers are ensconced, you need to implement a predetermined plan to handle the attack. It’s essential to have analytics and legal teams at the ready to intervene; if a plan is not already in place before a cyber threat happens, the proper resources cannot be moved quickly into place to handle the issue.

Something else to keep in mind is the focus. Too often, companies and legal teams are worried about potential litigation later on. The initial focus must be on surviving the current threat.

Being aware of these potential threats can help business owners understand their vulnerabilities and prioritize protective measures. Because these attacks are nearly inevitable, company owners must take steps to prepare on all fronts.

Cyber insurance

A key part of your preparation is cyber insurance. These policies cover liability for data breaches, and they’re essential. Without insurance, a nasty cyber attack could bankrupt your company and destroy all you’ve worked for. Discuss cyber insurance with us or your commercial insurance agent, who can help you select the coverage that’s best for your company. To read more insurance-related articles, check out our 31 days of insurance series.

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2 years ago · by · 1 comment

What’s Your Commercial Property Worth?

Commercial Property

As a business owner, you know your commercial property has value. But how do you establish this value for insurance purposes? Gut feelings aren’t the answer.

For example, if it’s essential to the success of your business, you may see it as “priceless.” If it’s expensive to maintain, you may assume its value is high. If it’s older, you may think it is inexpensive to replace. But these “feelings” can’t establish a true value for insurance purposes. When insuring your business property, it’s important to understand what the property is truly worth, and how this value is determined.

Following are three terms that are often used interchangeably—and incorrectly so. Understanding these different terms may help establish your property’s value and identify the insurance coverage that’s best for you.

  • Market value is the estimated dollar amount your property would sell for today, including the land it’s on. This value is affected by location, condition, and the commercial real estate market, and is the value used when selling a property.
  • Replacement cost is the dollar amount it would take to replace or repair your building with the same materials used currently; it includes the cost of hiring contractors, but not the value of the land. Typically, replacement cost is lower than market value.
  • Actual cash value is the cost to replace or repair your property, less depreciation. This will likely be the lowest value of the three.

If you live in New York? I can help or contact your insurance agent can help you decide which policy best suits your circumstances if you live outside of New York.

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2 years ago · by · 1 comment

9 Cyber Insurance Terms You Need to Know

Cyber-crime is no longer a plot device for sci-fi flicks. It’s here, and it’s rampant. It affects countless companies around the world every day. Allianz’s Risk Barometer ranked cyber incidents as the third-highest global risk in 2016. The Insurance Information Institute reports that the average cost of a breach in 2016 was $7 million.

Clearly, cyber insurance has become an essential for business owners. However, not every entrepreneur has a healthy understanding of this coverage. What types of protection are available? What policies are appropriate for you? Where are your greatest risks? It’s important for business owners to answer these questions and get the proper coverage.

Following is a breakdown of the most common types of coverage. Familiarity with this terminology will help as you partner with your insurance provider to determine the best coverage for your company.

  • Business Interruption: A cyber-attack can limit your ability to continue operations. You may lose a lot of business while you sort things out. This covers loss of income during that time.
  • Crisis Management: If a data breach affects customers, you will incur costs to notify consumers and provide credit monitoring services for them. This also covers the cost of public relations/advertising campaigns you must run in order to rebuild your reputation.
  • Cyber Extortion: If your network is threatened by blackmailers, this covers the payment of an extortion threat. It also provides coverage for the cost of tracking down the criminals.
  • Loss of Data: Cyber-crime often involves sending a virus or other damaging code into your system. Loss of Data or Data Corruption policies cover the destruction of valuable information.
  • Criminal Rewards: If a cyber-criminal attacks your systems, you may offer a reward for information leading to the criminal’s arrest. This insurance will cover the cost of that reward.
  • Data Breach: If your data is breached, you are legally liable. This covers expenses related to that legal liability.
  • Identity Theft: A common cyber-crime is the theft of customer or employee personal information. If this happens, Identity Theft coverage gives you access to an identity theft call center for assistance.
  • Directors & Officers Liability: Company leaders may be at risk or liable for decisions made on behalf of the company. With this policy, key decision makers are protected from cyber liability.
  • Cyber Liability: This basic coverage protects you from costs such as legal fees and court judgments that you incur after a cyber-attack. It also covers unintentional cyber mishaps by your company or another company, such as transmission of a computer virus.
  • General Liability: It’s important to note that most general liability policies do not cover cyber-crimes.

Don’t leave your business vulnerable to these prevalent attacks. To protect your assets, employees, and company future, educate yourself about cyber-crime. Learn your weak spots and speak with your insurance agent about how you can strengthen these areas with the right coverage.

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2 years ago · by · 1 comment

How to Shop for Commercial Auto Insurance


Obtaining commercial auto insurance coverage can be confusing.

Following are some ways to take the sting out of shopping for insurance:

  1. Take Inventory: Take time to evaluate current coverage options and needs. Make a list of all automobiles and vehicles used in the course of your business, including personal use of company cars and business use of private vehicles. In general, it is better to be safe than sorry when allowing the personal use of a company car or the business use of a private vehicle. When in doubt, buy commercial coverage. Keep track of:
  • Make and model of all vehicles and percentage of time used for business purposes.
  • Type of business, the name of business, industry, and clients served.
  • Ownership of each vehicle.
  • The driver of each vehicle.
  • Primary business use of each vehicle and location.
  1. Evaluate Options: There are several coverage options available when selecting commercial auto coverage. For example, you need to think about fleet insurance versus individual auto policies. In general, fleet insurance tends to be more cost-effective for larger needs, but it often depends on the total number of vehicles, usage patterns, and other criteria.
  2. Ask About Discounts: Commercial auto coverage can be reduced via careful planning and preparation. Ask your agent about discounts for any of the following which may apply:
  • Safe drivers.
  • Type of vehicle.
  • Higher deductibles.
  • Anti-theft and other safety devices.
  • Location of business operations, parking, and off-site storage.
  • The number of prior claims.
  • Coverage limits and exclusions.
  1. Consider the Name: Deciding how to list the insured driver isn’t quite as simple as it may sound when working with a commercial policy. Depending on the type of business, ownership of the vehicle and even status of the driver, the insured party needs to be specified in the policy. Be sure to speak with your commercial auto insurance agent to assure the name of the insured is properly recorded when purchasing or amending a policy.
  1. Liability Limits: Commercial auto coverage typically includes higher liability limits. For example, even $1 million or more might not be sufficient, especially if your business deals with transportation of vulnerable populations, hazardous materials or expensive items. Ask your agent about liability limits and other special considerations.
  2. Additional Options: Many small business owners find it helpful to purchase additional layers of protection when buying a commercial auto policy.
  3. Equipment and Addendums: Do not make the mistake of assuming that all equipment is included in the standard commercial policy. Specialized vehicles that hold equipment, generators or other attached machinery may require additional coverage addendums.

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