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  • A Hot Price for U.S. Businesses
  • Summer Grilling Fun
    Every year, what should be a fun outdoor occasion for family and friends instead turns into tragedy at nearly 9,000 homes, causing deaths, injuries and tens of millions in property damage. Your Trusted Choice® independent insurance agents can remind you that fire damage and potential liability for injury to friends will be covered by your […]
  • Home-Buying Tips for the Single Guy and Gal
  • Food Trucks: Let Your Food Keep on Trucking!
    Welcome to the world of food trucks! When you picture building your catering business, is the image more truck than tent? The mobile food industry has a long and tasty history in the U.S.
  • Staffing Your Catering Business
    Like many entrepreneurs, you may have begun your catering business as the sole cook and bottle washer. But at some point, you will discover that going it alone not only impedes growth, but is a recipe for burnout and collapse. And you’ll face the question of every successful catering business: How do I find and […]

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Eight Tips to Help Avoid Costly Slips, Trips & Falls

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

No one wants to see employees hurt on the job, especially if an accident was preventable. Unfortunately, slips, trips and falls can be major and costly accidents in the workplace.

Nearly 20 percent of the workers’ compensation claims filed last year were due to slips and falls. About one-third missed work for a significant time because of their injuries, which can increase the cost of claims dramatically.

With a proper safety plan in place, you could avoid accidents or reduce the severity of accidents, decrease an injured employees’ time away from work and avoid productivity drops. You could also keep your costs in check.

What are the common causes of slips, trips, falls?

Slips, trips and falls can occur on a variety of walking surfaces as well as on ramps and stairways. Some of the major hazards associated with these accidents can include:

  • Slippery, broken or uneven surfaces
  • Inadequate spill cleanup
  • Poor drainage
  • Weather conditions
  • Loose rugs or wrinkled carpet
  • Clutter, poor lighting or obstructed views

8-question checklist for evaluating floor safety

So are the floors at your business safe? To help you find out, answer yes or no to the following questions, developed from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines.

  1. Has your organization selected a floor material that is appropriate for the environment in which it will be used?
  2. Are the adjacent walking surfaces in your business similar?
  3. Does your business have a program for regularly cleaning its floors? Is your floor cleaner certified by the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI)?
  4. Does your business use different mops for cleaning and disinfecting?
  5. Are your floors treated with a high-traction finish?
  6. Does your organization strip an old finish following the manufacturer’s instructions before applying a new one?
  7. Does your organization require employees to wear appropriate footwear?
  8. Does your organization use proper warning signs for slip/trip/fall hazards?

Based on your answers to these questions, what are opportunities for improvement? What actions do you need to take?

Don’t slip up

Erie Insurance’s staff of risk control consultants can help you identify slip, trip and fall exposures and solutions to help prevent them. Ask Melendez Insurance about how to develop a customized risk control plan for your business.

The 5 Biggest Financial Threats to Your Small Business

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

Biggest-Financial-Threats-for-Small-BusinessRunning a business is about balance. You have to balance your weaknesses with greater strengths. You have to balance your team with talented candidates in many different disciplines. You have to balance threats with opportunities, or at least proactive measures to reduce those threats.

Threats to your business can come in many forms, from conceptual failures to real physical consequences. Some of the most dangerous threats are financial threats, which can escalate your costs, stifle your revenue growth, or in some other way compromise your profitability.

As you grow and develop your business, be sure to avoid these five major financial threats.

1. Losing a Major Client

Once you get your business up and running, you’ll probably have a handful of major clients or a major segment of your audience that you rely on for the majority of your revenue. The Pareto principle applies here for most businesses—approximately 80% of your business (or revenue) will come from 20% of your customers. Losing the bulk of that 20% of your customer base could be devastating for your revenue, leaving you with all the expenses of your original model without the income to offset them. Depending on the size of your business and the contingencies you have in place, it could spell disaster for your company in a matter of months.

The solution: The easiest way to prevent such a potential disaster is to strategically build your customer base. If you have one major client that provides the bulk of your revenue, try to find another that can balance them out, or build a backup of several dozen smaller clients so you aren’t as dependent. Similarly, you can expand your target demographics so you aren’t dependent on sales from one niche market. Either way, make sure you have formally drawn-up contingency plans that allow you to either drastically cut expenses or change strategies should your revenue suddenly diminish.

2. Overspending

It’s easy to overspend, especially when you’re excited about developing your business, but spending too much too quickly could wind up devastating your bottom line. The two main culprits here are marketing and hiring. On the marketing front, companies tend to overestimate the impact of their marketing campaign without grounding the numbers in research. As a result, they’ll throw thousands of dollars into a campaign they know nothing about, and might be forced to leave before they see any real results. On the hiring front, companies might hire a full team of full-time workers, anticipating increased demand, only to find their revenue growing far more slowly than expected.

The solution: There are two solutions to this financial threat. The first is doing more extensive research. Force yourself to logically and statistically defend your spending decisions with real research—it can prevent you from making impulsive or speculative decisions. The second is scaling more efficiently. In hiring, marketing, or any other spending area, start out small and start out slowly. Monitor your progress and only ratchet up your spending as necessary.

3. Poor Cash Flow Management

Cash flow is another business killer. In addition to making sure the bottom line for the business shows a profit, companies need to actively manage their incoming and outgoing cash so they can continue to pay their bills and their employees without jeopardizing the entire operation. Neglecting to actively manage your cash flow could lead you to run out of money—even if your total projected numbers still land in your favor.

The solution: Keep a close eye on your cash flow, and do whatever it takes to keep it positive. Negotiate terms with your vendors and suppliers, and only pay bills on the day they’re due. Give limited terms to your customers, invoice early, and send follow-ups to ensure timely payment. Report regularly, and know where you stand at the end of every day. Most cash flow problems can be corrected if caught early.

4. Pricing Errors

Pricing problems are some of the most difficult financial threats to prevent, since there are so many unknowns when developing an initial price model. In your business plan, you likely outline the reasoning for the prices of your products and services, estimating the total resource and human capital costs for production and distribution. However, there are many unpredictable factors that could get in the way of successful implementation of your model. Pricing too high could severely throttle your customer base, while pricing too low could make your profit margins too slim to see any real eventual benefit.

The solution: There will always be unknowns and market changes, so it’s impossible to effectively predict every aspect of your pricing structure. However, if you extensively research your pricing and stay flexible enough to adapt when new factors emerge, you’ll be able to build an ever-changing pricing model that puts you in the best possible ongoing position.

5. Legal Problems

It could be a disgruntled employee trying to take you for all you’re worth. It could be a harassment or discrimination suit filed against you by an employee. It could be a copyright or patent violation. It could be an angry customer trying to get revenge. Whatever the case, there’s a very real possibility that your business will face some type of legal action at some point during the course of its development. Getting sued could cost you thousands or millions of dollars, which you might not have, forcing you to close your doors forever.

The solution: Being proactive is the key here. Offering training seminars to prevent your employees from engaging in actionable offenses is a good idea, but you’ll never be able to prevent every possible lawsuit. If you’re interested in protecting your business from these threats, general liability insurance will help provide an additional layer of support.

Threats are only powerful if they aren’t anticipated. Keeping a steady read on the pulse of your business, identifying potential problems before they escalate, and constantly refining your approach will all help you mitigate the possible impact of these critical threats.

America’s Best-Kept Secret About Business Insurance

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

best-kept-secret-business-insuranceThe vast majority of successful business owners enjoy that status by working hard and making smart decisions. One of the best decisions any company can make is finding experienced, qualified people for key positions. One position that can greatly impact any business investment’s chance of success is its insurance agent. Do you want an agent who works for your business, or the insurance company?

To protect your investment and future, purchasing from a quality business insurance company is imperative for the long-term success of your business. As a business owner, however, it can be difficult to know what actually constitutes a “quality” company, given the variety of options available to you. This article will serve as a primer to help guide you in the right direction.

Captive Versus Independent

There are two primary types of insurance agents who will handle your business insurance needs. Understanding the differences between the two will help you determine which one is best suited for your business and your needs.

Captive Agents

A captive agent is someone who represents a single insurance company. Part of a captive agent’s agreement is that only one company’s coverage, services and products are offered to clients and potential clients.

Independent Agents

Independent agents, such as those on the Trusted Choice® network, can offer coverage from a variety of different providers. In most cases, independent agents can provide clients with more options, as well as cost savings, given the variety of insurance providers they represent.

Independent agents are able to shop around to ensure you get the best possible blend of coverage coupled with rates. You are most likely busy operating your business. Instead of spending endless hours finding quotes from insurance companies, you can let an independent agent take care of this for you.

In addition, an experienced independent agent can provide you with guidance as it relates to your particular business insurance needs. There are many situations when combining various types of insurance policies can save your business substantial amounts of money. As no two businesses face exactly the same risks, knowledgeable independent insurance agents can help identify your unique liabilities and insurance needs.

Independent Insurance Agencies Meeting Your Business Insurance Needs

A recent study of The South Group, an independent insurance company in Mississippi, shows that 70 percent of their current clients are business owners. This is a significant increase for the company, which mostly dealt with personal insurance policies in the past. In fact, some independent insurance agencies, such as Trusted Choice, are devoted to retaining knowledgeable agents who have carved out an expertise in certain industries, such as the agriculture business, jewelers, and anything in between. These agents can give clients niche-specific service to ensure they receive the coverage and protection they need.

Advantages of Using Independent Insurance Agents for Your Business Insurance Needs

Savvy business owners are turning to independent insurance agents for their business insurance needs because they:

  • Offer a Larger Selection

One of the most obvious advantages of working with independent agents is that you have access to more choices. Independent agents will present you with a number of options, which means you’re likely to see policies that will cover the needs of your business at prices that fit your budget.

  • Are More Affordable

Business insurance purchased from independent agencies typically involves cost savings. An independent insurance agent will work to find the best deal for you, instead of focusing on the product selection available from a single provider. This will you save money on premiums, while still giving you the protection you need.

  • Offer Unbiased Advice

When you work with captive insurance agents, you need to keep in mind that they are limited by the options that they can present to you, since the only things they can sell you are products from the companies they represent. When you use an independent insurance agency, your business insurance agent will provide you with unbiased advice. The agent works for you, not those other guys. Some Trusted Choice agents are trained experts in the field and can provide you with the most relevant information possible so that you can make smart decisions regarding your business and your insurance needs. They will work with you to narrow down available options based on your requirements.

  • Can Assist with Claims

When you have an insurance claim, an independent agent will help you through the process. Unfortunately, more often than not, a captive agent will leave you to wade through the waters alone. It’s also important to note that independent agents don’t have to adhere to the strict protocols that typical traditional agents must follow. With the complicated nature of the insurance world and the specialized language, having a person you can call to ask for advice is a huge benefit.

Even more beneficial, however, is the fact that independent business insurance agents are advocates for their clients. Remember, a Trusted Choice agent works for you, not the insurance company, ensuring the best possible outcome in your interests.

Captive Agent Disadvantages for Business Insurance Policies

If you make the decision to work with a captive agent, you may run into a number of problems that are difficult, if not impossible, to overcome, including the inability to:

  • Purchase an insurance product because the parent company does not offer it
  • Take advantage of competitive prices due to a limited number of options

Additionally, there are many instances when captive insurance agents are forced to sell a certain product simply because the parent company asks them to do so. This can lead to pressure tactics that attempt to sell you more insurance than you truly need.

Independent Insurance Agencies – Are They Right for Your Business?

The big question that you have to ask yourself when it comes to finding the best business insurance is what is best for your business. The complexity of the issue stems from the fact that the answer is not the same for every business; your company will have a unique set of needs that is yours and yours alone. If you want flexibility, options and superior customer service, independent agencies on the Trusted Choice network are the perfect choice. After all, when it comes to running your business, time is money, which means you need to optimize every minute of every day.

These agents ensure your business is protected with the coverage that you need to safeguard your investment. Working with an independent business insurance company means personalized service, a variety of options and flexibility to choose a policy that will provide you with the best possible coverage at the best possible price, which will ultimately benefit you – and your business.

What You Need in Restaurant Insurance

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

As a restaurant owner, what you need in restaurant insurance probably includes coverage for your building, your business personal property, the personal property of others in your care, liability and employee on-the-job injuries.

And that is probably just the beginning since restaurants face some pretty unique risks. Below are some common industry risks that can help you think about what you need in restaurant insurance. Not every insurer or policy offers coverage for each one, so it’s important to have an idea of what you really need in restaurant insurance when you’re shopping for coverage.

This is a chart of what you need in restaurant insurance.

A few of the other coverages that restaurant owners often need include coverage for property damage related to an off-premises utility failure; employee dishonesty and theft; sewer and drain backup; and dish and glass breakage.

As you can see, restaurant insurance is important—and complex. To get some peace of mind about your coverage, it’s important to speak with an insurance professional. Melendez Insurance has a program that includes products and services specifically developed to provide restaurant owners with the protection they really need. Contact us for a free quote.