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Running Your Business

The Perils of Multitaking

The Perils of Multitaking

Multitasking is usually considered a good thing. Many job listing will ask for and many applicants will claim to have multitasking abilities. When looking at your employees and operations, you should make clear what your definition of multitasking is.

Five Reasons Bay Area Businesses Fail

Most entrepreneurs go into business thinking they are going to have a jump start, be successful and build their empire. Reality dictates that this is a rare occurrence. Even young companies require time to incubate and grow into thriving businesses, profitable or not... If you are a visionary starting your business you are likely taking time to make the right decisions. At BayRisk Insurance Brokers, we have the opportunity to see many businesses come and go; to succeed and fail. In speaking with some of our clients that have succeeded and learning from those that have failed we have concluded that most wish their hindsight was better in these areas:

  1. Doing Enough Research Before Launching- Every new business is excited to show themselves off and hit the ground running, but without the proper research you could be making a premature move. Your business has plenty of brain power, but hiring independent consultants that are experts in market research and demographics could be the best investment you could make early on. Not only will you learn how to market and to whom, when and why, but you could learn that yourr your demographic is not quite ready for your product or service. Don't be the next Apple Newton (yes, even Apple can make mistakes).
  2. Paying Enough Attention to Market Trends- So you've done your research and launched because the world is ready. All too many businesses have failed because they do not prepare themselves for market trends. If you are selling a product or providing a service, be ready to change. It's easy to get tunnel vision when times are good, but not paying attention and adapting to change is a recipe for failure. One day your widgets may be talk of the town and you go through rapid growth, but unless you plan for constant improvement or added products or features, you may be hosting a garage sale to make money with your widgets in it.
  3. Investing In the Business- Some businesses get off to a great beginning then start spending on new staff, new office space, fixtures and furniture.Before they know it there is no retained earnings and no capital toreally grow the business. They may look for private or angel investors, but then make themselves vulnerable to losing equity and possibly control of their company.
  4. Hiring Practices- Many business owners make great visionaries. However, just because they can start a company doesn't mean they make good Human Resources managers. Hiring the right people can be a science and this is a costly area to make mistakes. Consider using a staffing firm or hiring one person as your HR manager that can assist with hiring, management and firing if necessary. Employees are your most valuable assets, but sure you hire wisely and manage just as wisely.
  5. Having the Right Insurance- Come on you had to know I would throw that in the mix. Many businesses fail because they fail to protect themselves. The cost to defend your company in a lawsuit could be enough to put you out of business. Smart business owners work with smart insurance brokers to get the right coverage. A local and knowledgable insurance broker can help you avoid accidents from happening and protect you if they do.

We rarely see a Bay Area startup go from Bootstrap to Bugatti overnight, but love to see it happen. Don't let hindsight get the best of you and keep you from being the next success story! 

Annual Risk and Protection Checklist

The New Year is a great time for reflection, reviewing, and revamping. Local Risk Manager, Charles Wilson of RiskSmart Solutions, does an excellent job reminding business owners to create a checklist to help protect and manage your exposures. Make time to create your checklist and involve your insurance broker for assistance. These tips will help get you started! 


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Tip #95: Annual Risk and Protection Checklist
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This month's post will serve as your annual reminder! As you organize your priorities for the New Year, remember to include the following.

Below are seven key risk and protection reminders for your checklist. Many of these we know are important, yet they're often not immediately urgent, so they fall to the bottom of the pile. That's why an annual schedule for these updates on your calendar is great for avoiding last-minute panic.

  1. Update asset lists. Inventories can get quickly out of date.  Think about equipment, vehicles, shop and office supplies, computers and software licenses, contact information, etc. Quarterly reviews can keep these top of mind.  Keep updates offsite and secure.
  2. Update values. Asset values - for buildings, equipment, inventory, etc. - can vary from normal inflation for lots of reasons. Don't get caught short in the event of a loss. Review quarterly with your asset lists above and advise your broker if you need increases. If you can't get these done, schedule "project steps" and perhaps a summer or holiday intern to help out.
  3. Schedule key dates. Keep track of renewal dates for licenses, leases, client retainers, service contracts, insurance, certifications, website URLs, etc. on several people's calendars. Add notes about who else needs a "heads up" to be involved.
  4. Insurance protections. Meet with your insurance professional at least once outside of the "renewal" period. Ask about new trends in legal, coverage, and insurance rates. Talk about changes to your business and find out the "hot" risks that need your attention. Then block out time for renewal applications and benefit program updates, employee communication and enrollments. 
  5. Safety. This can be vital to employee morale, customer loyalty and your business survival. Make sure your IIPP (injury and illness prevention plan) is up to date as required by many state laws. Schedule regular safety committee meetings, and get the right equipment (PPEs). Ask your insurance broker about free insurance company services and inspections.  Also get locations of emergency medical clinics nearest you and your work sites: each employee should have an appropriate list immediately accessible.
  6. HR issues and Training. Plan for employee handbook updates, new policies and updated legal postings. Schedule employee group discussions and reminders about expectations and rules. Plan for safety training and defensive driving, equipment certifications, harassment and discrimination courses, etc. The right training, in advance, can save businesses huge hassle and headaches.
  7. Update Emergency plans. These "be ready" plans need review and updates. Ensure you have the basic supplies appropriate to your location and potential circumstances (flood, windstorm, earthquake, etc.).  Encourage employees to have their own supplies and some plans for family as well. Contact info must be accessible to all. 

Finally, think about the big picture: who are the key people you depend on to be responsible for coordinating your overall risk and protection program? Do they clearly understand your priorities and expectations? Make sure you are delegating with knowledge and oversight, and not abdicating without paying attention. 


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To view this and other RiskSmart Solution Tips, please click here

About the author: Charles Wilson has extensive experience starting, growing and fixing small business units in Europe, Canada and the US. This hands-on, ground up knowledge of how businesses operate makes Charles a valuable asset both for the advice he can provide and for his ability to work with your organization to get the recommendations implemented quickly. 

Need help with resources or have questions? He can be reached at: 510-685-3883 or email charles@risksmartsolutions.com.

Another Year, Another Renewal: What to Discuss With Your Broker Before Renewal

January 1st is probably the most common renewal date for commercial insurance policies. Sure, it's a nice clean start date and works well with budgets, but it falls right at the worst possible time of year for you and your broker to talk about insurance. Halloween just ended, your sweating over where to go for Thanksgiving then you're hosting Christmas. Oh, and New Year's vacation is thrown right in there as well. 

By not accurately reviewing your insurance with your broker, you could be losing out on premium savings and filling valuable gaps in coverage that could be undiscovered until after a loss. Here are some things that you should be discussing with your insurance agent/broker well before your renewal (whether it's a January 1st effective date or not). 

1. Has anything changed? Did you merge or acquire another business? Was there a change in ownership? Did you alter your business operations since the last renewal? If you answered yes to any of these, your insurance broker and carriers need to know about it and underwrite accordingly. For example, if you are a toy manufacturer and decide to stop making your highest risk product, your premiums should go way down if that exposure has dropped dramatically. 

2. Have you hired or laid off employees? If you payroll has changed drastically, you'll want to tell your broker that as well. Your workers' compensation rates are based on projected payroll. If they don't know the payroll will double, you may be hit with a large audit that is hard to absorb. Conversely, if your payroll goes way down, you don't want to be paying twice as much for coverage and have to wait for an audit refund...

3. Did you reinvest in business property? Maybe you replaced all the office computers, servers, phones, desks or otherwise... A big jump in business personal property without telling your broker could create  gap in coverage and leave you at risk of a potentially having an uncovered or reduced paid claim. 

These are just a few of the common changes that can occur between your insurance renewals that need to be addressed. If you need assistance with your renewal, please contact us for a through review of these and other changes that need to be regularly assessed with your risk management team. Remember that an insurance review is never too early... However, it's always too late if done after a loss. 

Is Your New Year's Resolution To Understand SEO?

Happy New Year! Hopefully you have used some of your holiday break to think about improving your reach to new and existing customers. If you are a small business owner and have not researched Search Engine Optimization (SEO) maybe 2013 is the year to start... SEO is a very complicated subject and is constantly changing, but ultimately it means getting found on the internet by prospective customers that you want to attract. We are by no means experts on the subject, but recommend that you understand the basics before taking action like hiring a professional SEO consultant, modifying your website to enhance your SEO or trying to replicate what your competition is doing. 

The video below is a great introduction to SEO featuring Maile Ohye, a developer at Google. It is worth 10 minutes of your time if you want to learn the basics of SEO. Also, for extra credit check out her video on 5 common mistakes  in SEO (and 6 good ideas!) here

If one of your New Year's resolutions is to grow your business, you may need to put SEO at the top of your "to do" list. If you search for your product or service and are not showing up on page one or two of Google, you may never be found. Good Luck in 2013!

Stop Procrastinating & Plan For 2013

Where did the year go? Is it shaping out like you had planned? Did you plan? Hopefully you do business and personal planning and goal setting to help give some direction to your coming year. We are in insurance so we tend to be cautious and like planning... All BayRisk staff will be heading to a group planning meeting soon with professional assistance and this article by Inc. perfectly ties into how we wanted to share with you the benefits of planning...

If you're not planning for the coming year then you better believe that your competitors are. Here are three solutions to get you going before it's too late. 

Hooray! The election season is finally done. The holidays are close behind, and 2013 is just around the corner. And yet a good many companies still don't have a formal strategic plan on the books. Many don't even have a meeting scheduled before the end of the year to create a strategic plan and align their team. Often executives will manage for the current quarter with little consideration for three to five year objectives or even a one year plan.  Sadly, as the executives of these companies try to navigate uncertain times, they will wonder the following:

  • Why aren't we hitting our goals?
  • Why aren't we all on the same page?
  • Why can't our people execute without having to ask questions at every turn?
  • Why aren't we more prepared?

The answer is simple... procrastination. That sounds harsh but those of you regularly reading this magazine and website have seen plenty of material about the value of long term strategy. You have heard experts such as Collins and Peters, tout the benefits of long term strategic planning and alignment. Many of you know other successful companies who plan and execute consistently. So there is little question that you are just putting off what you know must be done. But perhaps there are solid reasons for your procrastination. Allow me to identify and resolve some of them for you.

1. Complacency

Maybe things are going well for you. Or at least they seem good enough. I am sure that's exactly what your competitors are thinking too and none of them are developing strategyon how to steal your customers and gain market share. Keep telling yourself that and soon you'll find out the hard way that your business is always vulnerable to others who strategically plan and can out-execute you. This why many businesses fall into what Jim Collins calls the "Doom Loop" as outlined in his book Good to Great. Why be lazy? Taking a long-view approach in your business will insure you are ready for the next disruptor in your industry and can remain competitive.

2. Confusion

Perhaps you would like to execute a strategic plan for the company, but can't focus because you aren't really clear about where you personally want to be in life. Perhaps you spend too much time thinking about what you want to DO in your life, and not enough about who you want to BE. In fact many companies miss their mark because their management team doesn't focus enough on individual objectives beyond the company's goals. If your people are not clear on who they want to be and what motivates them to contribute, the results will suffer and you will likely wander off course. But this is resolvable. Ask everyone "Who are we as a company and where do you see your role in five years?" See if his or her answers align with your perceptions. Taking time to consider your own future might be a good start and better prepare you to lead strategic talks for your executives and your company.

3. Priority

So many executives are constantly battling with competing priorities. As my father always says: "When you are up to your rear end in alligators it's hard to remember that your primary directive is to drain the swamp." It's very difficult to make the transition from working IN the business to working ON the business. But one thing is for sure. If you don't start prioritizing strategic planning you will forever be letting the business run you. The sooner you make your strategy and alignment a priority, the sooner you'll achieve goals effectively and create efficiencies that will free up time and resources in your company. You don't have to be the CEO of a company to raise the priority of strategic planning. Any individual can drive the process and show their value to the company at the same time. Here are the first three steps.

  1. Set a date for a 2-day planning retreat before the end of the year. If you don't do it now, you'll forget. Once the date is set you can figure out all the other details.
  2. Hire a facilitator or a coach. For a successful retreat, you need methodology and objectivity. A good facilitator can provide both of these things and is well worth the money.
  3. Engage your team. Email them this column right now. That way you'll demonstrate your commitment to strategic planning as a priority and get the conversation started. Share the pressure of accountability and you are assured of getting a long term strategic plan in place before year end.

Execute on these actions and you'll surely surpass your procrastinating competitors.

Full Link: http://www.inc.com/kevin-daum/stop-procrastinating-plan-for-2013.html

5 Steps For Managing Your Start-Up's Hyper Growth

Growth is good, but without properly managing your company's growth you could be setting it up for disaster. Use these steps to control your "hypergrowth."

1. Build a project team. 

If you want to change these three S's, you can’t do it alone. You should assemble a team of your key direct reports, and you might want to include representatives of your leading customers and key suppliers as well.

2. Interview start-up CEOs and experts.

The next step your project team should pursue is to pick the most burning issues your start-up faces when it comes to managing growth.  

For example: Do you have the right organizational structure, or is it slowing down decision making? Are you measuring and rewarding people on the right variables? Are you hiring people who fit well, or are you suffering from high turnover?

3. Analyze research findings and develop a diagnostic tool. 

One you’ve conducted the interviews, you should analyze the results and use the insights to generate ideas for how you can improve your start-up’s structure, systems, and shared values.

4. Compare diagnostic results to best practices and identify improvement opportunities.

Once you’ve completed those interviews, you can assess where your start-up’s structure, systems, and shared values are strong and where there are opportunities to improve them. You should benchmark your start-up against the best practices that you identified through the interviews with other start-up CEOs and experts.

5. Develop and implement improvements.

Finally, you should work with your project team to develop ideas for how to improve your start-up’s structure, systems, and shared values. Here, you should use the ideas from best practices to brainstorm many new ways to make your start-up’s structure, systems, and shared values more effective.

Read the complete article here...

Here are four surprising ways to protect yourself in a law suit and keep legal fees to a minimum.

Shakespeare said, "First kill all the lawyers." Maybe this seems a tad aggressive, but then again, for most people the last thing you look forward to is someone showing up at your door with a subpoena. Whether a lawsuit is business related or personal, the thought of engaging an attorney for protracted litigation can strike fear into a person's heart.

Not only is there emotion and argument to contend with, but the sheer agony of watching those exorbitant hundreds-of-bucks-per-hour fees racking up with no end in sight is enough to terrorize anyone. Even most attorneys, particularly litigators, will advise people to avoid litigation at all costs...

1. Don't Be Bullied

Attorneys are trained to be aggressive. Law school is a brutal and competitive atmosphere where only the strong survive.

2. Tell the Truth

If you are truly in the wrong then settlement is probably your best approach, but if you are legitimately right then stand up for yourself and provide the facts as they occurred.  In both my cases, I stood by the truth and the law without any manipulation or legal shenanigans.

3. Maintain Your Sense of Humor

This is how you take a traumatic experience like litigation and turn it into an Awesome Experience... 

4. Prepare Yourself!

The best way to beat lawyers is to not engage with them in the first place. Here are a few questions to ask yourself or your staff that will help keep the attorneys away, or at least prepare you for the day the subpoena shows up...

Read the full article here...

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Cure For Work Stress

Stress can lead to distraction that can lead to accidents. Here is an article that helps put stress into perspective. Don't let stress ruin your day or create worse problems...

with Most people are convinced that stress is an inevitable part of the working world. They are wrong.

The level of stress that you experience is very much under your control. The trick is finding ways to exist "in the now."

Think about it: Why do people feel "stressed"? In every case that I've ever seen, it's because they're dwelling on future events over which they have no control. In other words, stress is just plain old worry--but rebranded so that it sounds less wimpy. (Nobody ever gets called a "stress-wart.")

For example, many people feel "stressed" because they "have way too much work to do." That sounds perfectly reasonable, but in fact, it's not the work that's creating the stress. It's worrying about what might happen (or not happen) if all that work doesn't get done.

Similarly, it's "stressful" if you have a job (like customer support) in which people sometimes scream at you. There's no question that such events are unpleasant, but the real source of the stress isn't the event but the anticipation that it's going to happen again.

Since stress is all about the future, the real cure for stress is to live in the present. Here are some suggestions for doing this:

1. Meditate or pray every day.

When done correctly, meditation and prayer place your thoughts in the present. When you're focused on your breathing, the energy flowing through your body, or the presence of God in your life, there's no opening for stress to get inside you. These activities not only create a respite from stress, they help train your mind to remain "mindful."

2. Set aside a daily time to plan.

Achieving goals is impossible without planning--and planning, by its very nature, involves imagining the future, including possible setbacks and problems. Limit your "future thinking" to a set time every day--and then spend the rest of your time executing the steps in your daily plan.

3. Detach yourself from results.

Though it's true the business world is all about getting good results, such results are usually achieved through the execution of a well-thought-out plan. Therefore, once you've made a plan, put your attention on the steps, not on the outcome. Until events prove otherwise, trust that you've created (and are now executing) the best plan possible. More...

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The Best Way To Set Up and Organize Your Desk

Spring is well past and odds are good that you have a couple of piles around your desk (like mine)... It may be a good time to some some Fall cleaning and de- clutter your work area which should help de-stress your workday. Here is a useful article on office organization.

The Best Way to Set Up and Organize Your Desk

  • Use the P-L-A-C-E system to clean out and organize your stuff:
  • Purge unnecessary items
  • group Like with like
  • place groupings according to your Access needs
  • Contain loose items
  • and Evaluate how well your system works. More...

The Greatest Business Decisions of All Time

If you don’t think Apple, Zappos, Walmart, Ford, or 3M have something to teach you, look in the mirror. If you know they do, then buy this book by Jim CollinsThe Greatest Business Decisions of All Time. In addition to weaving inspiration with real-world corporate mythology, the book offers a rich dataset of strategic decisions--from Ford’s decision to give workers a wage high enough that they could afford a Model T to 3M’s now oft-copied practice of giving engineers time to dream--to study. Here is what I learned from the book:

1. Echoes are better than cries.
When we think of the critical strategic decisions that changed the course of a company’s history, we like to think about big bets, one-time events that redirected the course of corporate history. But only three of the 18 decisions this book details were one-time decisions. Sure, you have Apple’s board deciding to return Steve Jobs to CEO, or Softsoap’s risky strategy of buying up soap pumps to block P&G from copying, but in most cases, decisions that matter look more like Zappos offering free shipping or Walmart holding 6 a.m. meetings: The decision guides not just immediate action, but future action. The culminating effect becomes huge. Implication: For each decision, think about how this choice might inspire future decisions. Read more...

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Nothing Nice To Say: How To Deal With Negative Online Reviews

Positive reviews and a solid presence online are well worth the price, but it’s important to know how to deal with negative reviews when they rear their heads. After all, a well-handled bad situation can do almost as much good as a positive review!

No matter how great your company and services may be, there will always be complaints. Inside Facebook  has identified the major causes for complaints as:

- Delays in shipping a product
- Faulty or damaged products
- Poor service or perceived rudeness
- A public relations crisis

Read More...

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The Right Way To Approach A Start-Up

We have been getting many more calls lately by entrepreneurs starting companies. Maybe it's a sign of a recovering market of maybe it's just in the air. Whatever the reason you may be considering starting a new business it's good to looks at the reasons startups can fail. Here is a great article on the subject...

8 Reasons Startups With Good Ideas Fail

1. Give up. When it comes to business success stories, a common trend you’ll hear is that the founders never gave up. They stay completely committed to their idea, and don’t let the roadblocks slow them down or stop them. A sense of resilience may be the most important aspect of success. You may get a lot of “no’s” at first, but pushing through the negativity can mean the difference between success and failure.

2. Ideas alone are worthless. Ideas themselves don’t create successful startups. Chances are, if you’ve got an idea for a startup, someone else has already thought of it, too. Ideas themselves aren’t worth much—it’s the people behind the ideas that matter, and how committed they are to executing their vision. Read more... 

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6 Steps To Successfully Branding Your Business: Infographic

Whether you’re just starting out or thinking about re-imagining your business’s brand, taking the time to create a well thought out and cohesive identity for your business is crucial. A recognizable, appealing identity helps your customers better understand who you are, and ensures you’ll stand out in a crowded marketplace.

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