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Business Tips

Seven Tips for Buying the Right Business Insurance

Seven Tips for Buying the Right Business Insurance

One of our preferred carriers has come up with a great video that goes over seven tips for buying insurance.  These tips are excellent for most business insurance consumers. Please spend a couple minutes to watch the video here. The tips are also below if video is not your thing.

New Year, New Laws

New Year, New Laws

Happy New Year! As a business owner, I'm sure you're extremely busy with planning and growing your business right about now. However, it's good to make time to stay compliant with some of the new laws affecting California employers.

We Just Redesigned Our Website, Should You?

Technology moves fast... The way the public searches, views and consumes information is rapidly changing as well. If you have not made changes to your website in the past three to five years to keep up, now is a good time. We just redesigned www.bayrisk.com here are the reasons:

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.

Employee Fatigue a Silent Risk In the Workplace

How Employers Can Help Prevent Employee Fatigue

Employee fatigue issues should be handled with the same care and attention as other job-related hazards. Here are some helpful tips to keep employees awake, alert and safe on the job.

  • Vary work tasks throughout the day.
  • Offer regular breaks during the workday, so employees can reenergize and refocus on their workload.
  • Switch to blue-enriched white lighting in the office. Research indicates that cognition-enhancing blue light during the day improves mood, concentration, productivity, and the quality of sleep at night.
  • Create a company sleep challenge. Talk about a fun way to engage in friendly competition. Employees can use an activity tracker (e.g., Fitbit) or an app (e.g., Sleep Cycle) and log the number of hours slept each night.
  • Always encourage employees to notify a department manager or supervisor if they feel fatigued during the workday or otherwise not able to complete their work.

Meetings on the Move

Statistics show that when people walk 45-60 minutes per day, they sleep better at night. With this is mind, many companies conduct employee meetings while walking on an indoor track. This novel idea not only increases workplace productivity and employee engagement, it also creates a healthier company culture.

Educate Your Employees

Employers can also minimize the risks of workplace fatigue through employee education. Explain to employees the dangers posed to themselves and others while working when overly tired. Encourage them to develop and maintain a healthy sleep routine with the following tips.

  • Make sleep a priority. Go to bed at the same (and reasonable) time each day.
  • Eat light, nutritious meals and avoid eating or snacking right before bedtime.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Minimize their consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
  • Practice relaxation techniques after a long day and before going to sleep.
  • Resist the temptation to read or watch TV in bed.
  • Turn off smartphones, tablets and laptops well before turning off the light.
  • Seek immediate treatment of sleep disorders from a licensed physician.

Employees are likely your most valuable asset for your business. Make sure you take care of them by helping them take care of themselves. Not only will you be helping to avoid work realted injuries, but you will be improving productivity and likely overall job satiffaction. If you can't do all the above yourself as busy business owners, consider bringing in outside consultants to help. 

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.

From Snail To Scale... Are You Growing Your Business?

I always laugh about my first business venture. It's a great story, but also reminds me of valuable business lessons learned early. When I was 12 years old I was presented a interesting opportunity. There was a family acquaintance in Texas who was selling ceramic escargot culturing pots (I kid you not). His problem was that they don't have a lot of snails in Texas... I was contracted to collect snails, put them in empty milk boxes with enough food to be shipped back to Texas. I was to get 25 cents for the large snails, 10 cents for medium and 5 cents for small. Here are some of the lessons I learned about business and scaling:

1. Take care of your customers. I decided that I would pay for shipping since I wanted to make this as streamlined as possible for my buyer. This was a hard decision for a 12 year old, but with some guidance from my business savvy step-father, it made perfect sense.

2. Take care of your product. If snails died during shipment I would not get paid - simple. Therefore, I made sure to pack the milk containers with fresh lettuce and not over crowd my precious "es"cargo. I also paid for expedited shipping to ensure safe and fast delivery of goods. 

3. Maximize your opportunity (in other word - scale). After a couple of shipments, my buyer was very pleased, in fact he was in need of more snails. Unfortunately my turf was getting dry as I has scoured my neighborhood for snails at peak times. Therefore, I recruited some school friends as sub-contractors. I paid them 50% of the rate I was making and they we able to source their blocks to keep my shipments regular (we were also keeping the neighbors very happy by riding them of garden pests). One of the worst things that can happen in business is not being prepared to grow. 

4. Retain profits. It's easy for a 12 year old to take what might seem like easy money and blow it on baseball cards and video games... I was making approximately $75 per 2 week shipment depending on the pull and this went on for some time. I hate to sound like a geezer, but that was a lot of money at the time and for someone my age. I have always been money conscious and knew it would be smart to save most of my earnings. It was a good move. I bought Microsoft stock at age 13 and held (later, teenage me decided a car was more important than stock so I sold MSFT at age 17, but that's another story).  

Don't get me wrong, I'm no Warren Buffet or business guru. The point is that there are lessons to be learned from every level of business. Even a lemonade stand can implement the concepts above to be successful. Every business should regularly be thinking about how to scale their business appropriately for optimization. If you're not, I guarantee your competitor is. If you're in a field with no competition then YOU are the only thing holding you back. Sometimes even the snail business can move fast if you take the right approach. 

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

Six Reasons Why You Should Consider Greening Your Business Auto Fleet

There are more reasons now than ever to consider going green for your business auto fleet. Beyond helping the environment, here are 6 more reasons we can think of to share with you. 

1. Gas prices. Gas in the Bay Area is one of the most expensive areas to fill up in. Prices have soared this year to well over $4.00 per gallon. Despite political pundits, it is doubtful that a change in D.C. or not will lead to a change at the pump. 

2. Consumption. If you have a typical business auto fleet of mid-sized trucks and vans, you are probably seeing an average of 15-20 miles to the gallon. If the average tank is 18 gallons that means more money to fill up and more stops at the station which means a less productive work force. Most hybrid trucks and vans will add 5-15 extra miles to the gallon vs. their all gas consuming siblings. 

3. Traffic. Most of the new hybrids kick into electric when under 20 miles per hour. The Bay Area routinely gets horrible traffic that is well below 20 miles per hour. A hybrid car/truck/van will save hundreds or thousands of dollars per year from idling in the daily grind. Also, if you happen to purchase a zero or low emission vehicle, you may be able to skip traffic completely... California provides HOV (carpool lane) pass stickers for qualifying vehicles. This alone could be worth the switch. Here is a list of qualifying vehicles.

 4. Image. Most businesses and consumers, especially today and especially in the Bay Area, like to work with eco friendly businesses. Beyond the saving gas money and time as mentioned above, there is value to touting your green machines.

5. Tax Credits. Depending on your vehicle model, and tax liability, there are federal tax credits of up to $7,500 and up to $1,500 in additional California credits. Add this to the standard benefits of depreciating your business vehicles and the initial cost to go green is not as expensive as you may think. 

 6. Safety. Hybrids and electric cars have been in production for over a decade now. Initial concerns of electrical shock and failure have been proven wrong. These models are made with all the safety features of their counterparts which should make you and your employees feel secure. The Toyota Prius for example has constantly received 5 out of 5 stars from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The fuel tank capacities are also smaller that all gas vehicles which helps reduce fire and explosion concerns in major accidents.

Yes, hybrid and electric models have a higher sticker price than standard trucks and automobiles, but with so many benefits and the long term savings, it may be time to consider "greening" your fleet and your bottom line.  

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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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