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One Insurance Mis-Step Can Risk Your Business

In 2008 Leo Welder started ChooseWhat.com. Within a year he was being sued by J2 Global for using the term “e-fax”. It was totally out of the blue and unexpected. Sadly, he found his insurance didn’t protect him from this claim. Yes, he purchased insurance but was missing coverage for intellectual property litigation.

Both companies eventually settled but only after Mr. Welder had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. (How many startups have that amount of capital freely available?)

After the lawsuit, Mr. Welder decided to add an E&O policy to help protect his company from these concerns.

No matter how smart you are or how diligent you are in caring for your clients, you can still find yourself in legal and economic problems. However, even with these concerns, many startups haven’t investigated getting necessary insurance for their risk profile. (Typically because they are either trying to save money or as an oversight.)

The critical thing to understand when contemplating risk management is that problems arise from gaps in protection. With that in mind, here are recommendations from business owners and insurance experts to avoid liability problems in a business.

Cover All Your Bases

Every organization needs basic liability insurance coverage. This can protect your business from a huge number of costs from libel to customer injuries. The average liability plan is one of the least expensive types of insurance protection you can own.

Most business owners admit that they avoid insurance to keep costs low. The question to ask… is it worth it? Be sure to talk to your insurance agent and review any needed changes for your risk profile.

Here are some areas of risk to ponder:

* Do you have company cars?
* Do you or employees drive personal cars for business related activities?
* Do you attend trade shows?
* Do you store client data online?
* Is your company dependent on a key employee?

The list above is an example of what an insurance advisor will walk through with you. What you’ll end up investing in insurance is going to depend a great deal on your specific risks. (If you run a business that has low liability footprint such as copywriting or consulting you’ll have a different risk profile than if you are a construction contractor.)

If you are just starting your business, take a close look at Business Owners Plan. This could include some or even all of these policies into one affordable package. In order to qualify, you’ll probably need to have a business that employs less than 100 workers and has less than $5 million in annual sales. These policies are designed specifically for start-up companies and smaller companies. They work to decrease your risk to lawsuits.

Important: Update Your Policy As Needed

Your company is always changing and insurance isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation. Be sure your insurance coverage keeps pace.

If your business size rapidly changes, if your employee count changes, if your services change… all of these are reasons to review your insurance.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a statistic. Yes, one insurance misstep can potentially damage your business. The good news is one call to our team can help you understand your risk profile and help you be certain you have the exact coverage you need for your company.

Please welcome our newest member

So excited to announce that our very own Ashley, had her son finally arrive!  “Jr” was born on 6/24 at 7 lbs and 4 oz & he looks handsome as ever!

baby photo of Jr

Ashley’s Baby

So happy for them & they are all doing well.
Hmm…now that we think about it, maybe he’ll be a future insurance agent!??  🙂

5 Key Actions in Case of a Ransomware Attack

Imagine this: you are seated at home working on your computer, either answering your email or polishing a work related presentation. Suddenly, a message blinks on your screen. The message curtly demands that you send cash to a certain destination, failure to which you will be unable to access any of the documents stored on your computer. You also discover that your keyboard has become unresponsive. Logically, you decide to restart the computer. The screen comes right back on, but to your shock, you are still unable to access any of your files and folders. It dawns on you that your data has been remotely locked via a device on your network, and that no matter how much you try you cannot access it.

The above scenario clearly illustrates what happens in a typical ransomware assault. This has become an acute problem globally, with the WannaCry attack being the latest ransomware attack to affect the largest number of individuals on a worldwide scale. The victims are usually at a loss on what to do.

You can use a ransomware attack as a learning point, and consequently take measures to enhance your protection against similar attacks in the future. Here are five steps that you can take if you have been a victim:

1. Do not pay the Ransom Money

Internet security experts advise that it would be a disastrous mistake to pay off the aggressors. For one, it is an indicator that you have given up control of the situation to the attacker, and that you trust they will amicably resolve the situation. Honestly, this never happens. The aggressor is only interested in ripping you off. Once you pay the ransom, it is unlikely that they will unlock your documents. If in the unlikely event they do, be certain that they will see you as soft victim and mark you for repeated blackmail attacks. Giving in to the attackers’ demands also gives them the impetus to continue perpetrating further attacks on more victims.

Christopher Budd, a security supervisor for the electronics security firm Trend Micro, emphasized the above point in a business article he wrote last July. In the article, he advised victims of ransomware attack not to pay, but to keep in mind that they are handling bad guys. He reiterated that giving in would not guarantee that, as a victim, you would get back all your documents. It would only help the criminals perpetuate this criminal activity. As a worldwide communications threats expert, Christopher Budd definitely understands the pitfalls of giving in to the aggressors.

2. Use a Backup to Reinstall Your Files

Using a computer back up system comes with numerous advantages. Many people use computer backups to access their data in case the computer breaks down. In the same way, the backup will come in handy in case you fall prey to ransomware attacks. You will be able reinstall all your files and folders from the backup system, without having to refer to the aggressors. For this to be effective, ensure that you have set your system to automatically backup all the data that you handle via the computer. Once the backup system is well set, it will operate automatically and you do not have to keep thinking about it; unless something happens and you need to access the data.

3. Update Your OS and Anti-virus

It is important that you regularly update your OS and anti-virus with the latest versions. Microsoft is quite aggressive in addressing security concerns. Actually, the latest update of Microsoft’s Window 10 is fully secure against WannaCry -the latest global ransomware assault. There are several firms and individuals, however, who still use earlier versions of windows, or do not activate automatic updates on the later versions. These firms and individuals would not be protected in case an attack is imminent.

4. Engage the Services of Your IT Division or an Anti-Virus Firm.

The personnel in the IT department of your company may have the technical expertise to recover your data in case your computers are attacked. Inform them immediately you notice the problem, and allow them to try and salvage the situation. Conversely, you may opt to ask anti-virus companies to assist. There are some anti-virus software that could help, but do not peg most of your hopes on this.

5. Reformat Your Hard disk

This is a tough decision to make, because it means you will lose all your data. However, it is a good move compared to the alternative of giving in to the aggressors. So, if all the other solutions are not tenable, go ahead and reformat your hard disk and reinstall the OS. Take the entire ordeal of the attack as a lesson well learnt, and ensure to back up your data once you are back in business.

Importance of Identity Theft Protection

Of course, these kinds of attacks indicate that your computer has been violated. Attackers may have gotten access to important information from your system, in addition to holding it hostage. Just as it is important to protect your computers and devices with operating system updates and anti-virus / anti-malware software, it’s also important to protect your identity. Many carriers offer identity theft insurance endorsements on homeowners or renters insurance policies. Some also offer stand-alone identity theft protection options. If you are concerned about the financial implications of having your identity stolen, be sure to check with us for advice on your best options.

Watch Out For Being Over-Insured With These Handy Tips

Watch Out For Being Over-Insured With These Handy Tips

Here’s one of the core things we help our clients with. Understanding how to minimize personal economic dangers via insurance coverage. For example, the sudden death of a close relative can have a significant negative impact on your family’s financial well being. Having adequate life insurance can help address this. Your home might catch fire. Adequate homeowners insurance offers critical protection. And of course having appropriate auto insurance protects you from a loss in case your car is totaled.

It’s important to have insurance to protect against all of these different threats. But there is a cost to being over-insured… and not just in having a higher insurance premium. So here are a few tips to help you keep this from taking place.

Car insurance.

Having appropriate liability insurance on all your vehicles is critical. However, having collision and/or comprehensive insurance on a vehicle with a low resale value that’s also paid off isn’t helpful. Here’s a way you can test your need. If your car was in an accident could you afford to replace it without negatively impacting your finances? If yes, scrap the unnecessary coverage and pocket the savings.

Homeowners insurance policy.

Do you know how much it will cost to rebuild your home if it were to face devastation? This isn’t the same as what your home might be worth if you sold it tomorrow. Remember that the cost of land doesn’t factor into having adequate home insurance protection.

When you buy insurance for your home or condo, you are seeking the needed coverage in case the house (or a part of it) has to be replaced. This should be 1-for-1. For example, if you have a home that is carpeted, you wouldn’t pay for insurance that would replace the carpets with hardwood floors. When insurance is called upon, the coverage must be like-for-like. Making certain you have appropriate coverage can lower your total premiums.

Life insurance.

One of the biggest areas where folks are often over-insured is life insurance. Some folks view having a life insurance policy from a pride perspective. But do you really need a $1,000,000 policy? Carefully reviewing your needs is critical to avoid spending too much on life insurance. Having the right mix of insurance including term vs. whole can also offer savings.

Another thing to watch out for is costly riders. While there are too many to cover in detail here, riders add costs. It’s important to make certain that whatever riders you choose, they meet your unique needs.

Final Thoughts.

For the most part, being over-insured drives up the cost of premiums while offering you little genuine benefit. Eliminating these costs can help you save hundreds of dollars (or more) each year. Shifting these savings towards other goals such as investing can help you build financial security. This can include setting aside for college or retirement.

The best time to address insurance is when life circumstances change. Recently married? Having a child? Perhaps you’ve just received a big promotion? You may have won the lottery. Leverage these big life moments to be 100% certain you have adequate protection. As we review these life changes with you we’ll help you understand cost-savings opportunities. This includes making sure you avoid being over-insured. Contact us today for a complete review of your risk profile and insurance requirements.

Why Paying Attention to Mental Health Pays Dividends for a Small Business

Why Paying Attention to Mental Health Pays Dividends for a Small Business

Here’s a surprising statistic. In 61% of all work places, anxiety is present in a big way. In turn, this has a dramatic impact on substance dependency. The result is a less productive workforce that doesn’t offer its best to clients.

This is only one statistic from the 2016 Mental Health & Substance Abuse survey commissioned by the IFEBP. (The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans based out of Brookfield, Wisconsin.).

According to the survey, 94% of organizations reported that their employees are stressed. 67% additionally said that drug and alcohol abuse issues have been on the rise over the last five years. These are concerning numbers.

Given these issues, all companies (small and large alike) are encouraged to look at what may cause worker anxiety in the first place. For example, can simple changes in employee policy manuals and benefits packages can have a huge impact?
Look for employee policy changes that can reduce stress. For example, Netflix offers a common sense approach for allowing workers to use company phones for the occasional phone call. Same thing with making the occasional personal photocopy. Netflix treats these as small benefits. They make it a point to hire workers that they can trust to make smart decisions. In fact, Netflix pioneered employee policies that are commonly referenced in HR departments around the U.S. (link to https://hbr.org/2014/01/how-netflix-reinvented-hr)

Also, take time to review the benefits you offer with your Insurance professional. In fact one of the best things you can implement is an Employee Assistance Program. (link to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Employee_assistance_program)

Separate studies have found these programs increase employee productivity. They also lower overall medical costs while reducing absenteeism and turnover.

Another option is to offer health care benefits that include a mental health / substance abuse component. (Again, talk with your Insurance professional about options. They have the most up-to-date information and understand your specific requirements.)

Why consider incorporating substance abuse & mental health into existing benefits? Because anxiety isn’t the only issue facing employers and employees…

Here’s a breakdown of the issues survey participants cited and the percentage of those saying these issues were prevalent in their firms…

  • Alcohol addiction (49%)
  • Prescription drug abuse (33%)
  • Stress disorders (49%)
  • Sleep deprivation issues (33%)
  • Other psychological health issues (12%)

And just as important as having such benefits is making sure workers know they are available and that they are safe to leverage such benefits.

In fact 36% of survey participants noted that their companies could do a better job helping employees capitalize on benefits.

Employees who are fighting drug & alcohol abuse issues are in particular need of outreach programs. Many struggle in secret and fear admitting their problems will cost them their job.

By addressing these issues, small businesses are able to cut costs. These can include quality issues, productivity, hiring, training, and legal, etc.

And remember. As you ponder anxiety, employee policies, and mental health benefits, the impact is greater than your bottom line. You may save an employee for sure. But you may save a life and a family in the process as well.

Best of 2016: What is The Ultimate Guerilla Marketing Tactic?

What is The Ultimate Guerilla Marketing Tactic?

Amazon gets it. So does Salesforce. So does Etrade. Tesla? Yep, they get it too. Virtually all companies that exist mostly or solely online already understand how critical successful Internet marketing is to the bottom line.

Yet for small businesses, there seems to be a massive disconnect with how to make digital marketing work in a way that’s impactful and cost effective. So let’s take a closer look at this difficulty, the best ways around it, and why local online marketing is so necessary to create lasting success.

If you’re a small business owner, you may believe that online marketing really isn’t very important… especially if your business is located in a smaller town. But do your town residents have mobile? Do they have access to the Internet? If so, you are missing out on an opportunity to outwit your competitors.

The reality is starker. According to Marketing Land, 90% of survey respondents say that positive reviews influenced a purchase decision.  Just as people leverage Google & Bing far more than the Yellow Pages to find services, they are also checking on the services they find via review sites. This trend growing nationally and is happening with as much frequency in small communities as it is in large cities. However, in small cities, bad reputations travel like wildfire. In other words, an accountant in the city with a handful of negative reviews is simply better equipped to correct those negative reviews vs. an accountant in a small town of 5,000.

And it’s important to recognize that mobile is quickly replacing all other forms of computing. Laptops and PC’s are dwindling in sales while tablets and smart phones are selling like hotcakes. If you run a local service business, it’s critical to be found in mobile-optimized search. (Yes, that’s a thing.) If your website isn’t mobile friendly, Google has said it will be dropping your website from all search results as of 2017.

If you run a small business, you must have a robust online presence. It’s that simple.

And this is where that concept of Guerilla Marketing comes into play. Remember that the notion of Guerilla Marketing is that you can have a huge marketing impact without breaking the bank and really, that’s at the core of online marketing in general. The Internet offers the potential of truly infinite reach for a relatively low cost for that potential impact. At least that’s the promise…

The truth is, this is where most business owners get lost. With search engines like Google & Bing, reputation sites like Yelp & Angie’s List, social media sites liked Facebook & LinkedIn, is it any wonder that most feel completely overwhelmed?

If you’ve talked with experts you’ll know right away that local SEO alone can cost $1,500 a month for a handful of keywords and Reputation Management can cost $500 or more each month per location.

But marketing online can be affordable, particularly if you take advantage of the right technology and learn the methods that actually work for SEO, writing content, marketing automation, etc. Sure, it takes time to do this work but if you learn how to do it properly, you’ve created new potential revenue streams that will last a long time.

One important tip as you contemplate online marketing… don’t think for a minute that you have to come across as some giant corporation. If you serve a local market, chances are people would prefer to know they are dealing with someone who cares rather than a faceless monolith. So, let your individual personality shine. Make it your mission to become the hero in your market. Leverage your messaging both online and offline to create deep personal connections that will bring you lots of business and lots of referrals… and that can elevate your brand to a premium status… yes, you might actually be able to charge MORE in your market if done correctly.

So, is it necessary to leverage Internet marketing to help grow your small business? In today’s world, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, it is critical for your survival. If you are curious about your local reputation, how well positioned you are in your local market, and what you can do to begin taking action on strengthening your local marketing, check out this free local website analysis (link to: https://www.liftdemand.com/local-seo-website-analysis) that offers a pretty handy report on a company’s local presence.

Then start to take your local online marketing seriously. Make “action” be your mission and strive to be at the forefront of your local market while also working to do so in a manner that keeps your return on investment front and center.

And remember that as your company grows, be sure to reach out to your local insurance agent for ways to reduce insurance costs, expand benefits for employees, and make your company more stable. They may be able to help you find savings opportunities that you can then invest in your nascent online marketing efforts!

Annual Families & Literacy Luncheon

We were proud & honored to join a very special, local, non-profit for their annual luncheon fundraiser recently.  Families & Literacy helps benefit Kerr County and the surrounding areas by providing the adult educational programs needed, for families to better their own situations, as well as improve our local economy.  Please join us in partnering and supporting them in these invaluable efforts – learn more by visiting their website.

Families & Literacy table

First Insurance Agency sponsorship table at Families & Literacy Luncheon

Pictured from left to right are:  Ashley Kureska, Ellen Milam, & Rhonda Taylor, of First Insurance
Billy Taylor of Taylor Properties Real Estate.
Kit Werlein & Janet Justice, also not pictured: Mark Justice