Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How to Save Money on Insurance For Start-Ups

The biggest mistake start-ups make is being too optimistic.  Of course, you wrote in your business plan that demonstrates to your investors that you are going to make $1,000,000 in the first year and turn a profit by year three, but that's not what you should be telling your insurance agent.  

As a start-up, cash will make or break your business. CASH IS KING.  You will often have to accept 60-90 terms to get orders, your vendors (and insurance company) will want cash upfront.  Here are a few tips to keep your insurance overhead as low as possible so you can turn your start-up into the business of your dreams:
Since its first store opening in 2005, Pinkberry has nearly 100 locations throughout the United States, Mexico and the Middle East...(11/30/2011: Pinkberry Website)
Be Conservative on Sales and Payroll Estimates
You don't know how much you are going to make the first year.  Your numbers are based on estimated sales based on estimated customers based on research and industry benchmarks.  Insurance policies are generally based on either annual sales or payroll, so the higher you estimate the larger monthly bill you are going to have during that crucial first year.   

How conservative should you be?  
It really depends on your business.  After the first year the insurance company will do a review (nice way of saying audit) with you and will adjust the yearly premium based on your actual sales or payroll.  Go here for a great FAQ on audits.  If you estimated sales of $50,000 per year and you end up doing that in the first quarter, you need to call your agent to adjust the policy so the payments will be spread more evenly.  The last thing you want is to estimate a super low sales or payroll figure, have a great year and have an extremely large bill when the insurance company audits you.  The idea here is to increase cash flow and lower overhead.  

Look at all your options with your independent agent when starting an insurance policy.  Keep in mind that your personal assets could be at risk even if you incorporate, so price shouldn't be the only factor in choosing your policy.  Don't know where to start?  Check out this blog post: Insurance 101 for New Business.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What Insurance Does a Dental Office Need?

I love to work with clients that truly are interested in protecting their business from unforeseen losses.  I can’t say that I have a favorite client, but one that comes to mind is Dr. Solomon Cantwell DMD  He is a dentist that is truly dedicated to his customers, his staff, and the growth of his practice.  He is committed to keeping up to date with the latest dental technology and making his customers comfortable. 
Solomon and Joe in front of the dental office after talking business insurance.
Business Owners Policy and Workers' Comp
I have worked with him to make sure his equipment, liability, and building are all covered properly on his business owners’ policy.  In addition, we worked together to make sure that his employees had the proper coverage in case they were hurt on the job.

Employee Practices Insurancee (Sexual Harassment Insurance/Wrongful Termination)
We also went over the advantages of two other types of coverage including Employee Practice Liability Insurance (EPLI) and Data Breach Insurance.  EPLI is a coverage that is put in place in case an employee sues for wrongful termination, sexual harassment, or wage disputes.  It’s an important coverage that is often overlooked by many business owners because they don’t know about it or their agent never offered it.  There are actually more EPLI claims per year than General Liability claims per year in California

Data Breach
The Data Breach Insurance coverage is a relatively new coverage that was created in order to pay damages caused by loss of client information due to a breach in security (online or offline).  Most data breach policies cover: notifying your customers of the breach, paying an organization to monitor clients’ credit, repairing damaged PR, and even paying government fines for non-compliance.   Take a look at California's penal code relating to a breach.

Malpractice is for mistakes that the dentist makes when working on a patient.  An example would be doing a root canal on the wrong tooth.  Most dentists already have this coverage when we start working because it is often a requirement for working as a dentist, but there are many programs that can offer malpractice at competitive rates.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sizzling Insurance Tips for Restaurants and Bars

What kind of insurance do restaurants need?
Restaurants have unique risks that create some interesting exposures.  Depending on the size and services a restaurant may offer, there are different insurance products that the restaurant may consider purchasing.

General Liability
If a customer trips and falls or even if a customer spills hot coffee on herself (review of famous McDonald's case here); liability insurance would pay for such a claim.  Other claims include: choking, food poisoning, burns, etc.

Quick savings tip: To save on restaurant liability insurance, it's possible to find companies that rate on square footage instead of sales.  If you are a smaller restaurant that has a high volume of sales, then you could be paying too much.
Don't let restaurant insurance upset your stomach

Property Insurance
This is insurance for your equipment, improvements, and building if you own it.  If you are a tenant, then you need to review your lease to see what you are responsible for in case of a loss.  For example, maybe the last tenant installed a kitchen, but the lease may still state that the only thing the owner is responsible for is the four outside walls. If there is a total loss, you will have to pay to create an entirely new kitchen.

Quick savings tip: It is often less expensive to rate tenant improvements and restaurant equipment (anything bolted down) separately from business personal property.  That way you get the building rate instead of the rate for the things that can be stolen easily.

Business Income  
If your restaurant has to shut down due to a fire or a covered loss, you need this coverage to cover your costs and to pay you what you would have made (minus expenses that you don't incur during the loss such as payroll).  It's important to have at least 12 months coverage, but 18 or 24 months is ideal.  In case of a total loss, you may need to wait for building permits, construction delays, and negotiations with the insurance companies to be settled.  For more info on this business interruption, see this blog I wrote on it.

Quick tip:  Watch out for long delays in getting paid.  Often policies will include a 72 hour waiting period before this coverage can take affect.  Can you afford to lose three days of business?  What if that's a Friday or Saturday night?

Workers' Compensation
This coverage is mandated by California law, meaning you have to buy it even if you only have one employee.  The premium is a percentage of total payroll.  Restaurant premiums are currently between 2% - 6% based on the size, loss experience, and other discount factors.  Click here for more information on workers' comp.

Quick savings tip: In California tips are excluded from workers' compensation, so make sure you don't add them to your payroll report.

Stay tuned for my next blog that will highlight some more advanced coverage for restaurants.  Here are some examples of some other coverages that restaurants should think about including: sexual harassment, assault and battery, delivery driver coverage, and more.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How Insurance Helps Keep Your Business Going

Disability is important to many companies, especially one where the business owner is the main money maker. For example, a dentist or a doctor both may lose their practices if they were sick for six months. Many owners mistake Workers' Comp as a viable replacement, but workers' comp is only for on the job injuries or sicknesses.

If you come down with cancer and its not work related, then there is no coverage. under workers' comp. In addition, claims where an owner claims workers' comp against himself are looked at in greater scrutiny because there is more of a chance of fraud. Also, workers' comp only pays about 2/3 the wage you pay yourself. Many owners will pay themselves a low wage, but get most of their income from draws from company profits. Those draws won't be considered as part of the wage.

In addition, going without key coverages like workers' comp and liability insurance is a good way to get shut down as well. Workers' Comp is mandated by the state if you have employees, but many business owners tend to go with out it. If one is caught without it, your business could get shut down until you can prove you have it. Also, there is a fine for $1,000 per employee up to $100K.

Without the proper liability coverage, you can get sued once and lose everything on just paying legal bills. Insurance is the first defense from lawsuits. Even if you have an LLC to protect your personal assets, if the business is your main stream of income you could end up losing everything anyway.

Lastly, business income is a great way of protecting your company in case of a covered loss. Business Income is an important coverage that every company should have that can pay your lease, expenses, overhead, and even key employees in some cases. See my blog on business income for more information.