Insurance Account Reviews

by Charles T. Wilson on September 8, 2014

Most clients don’t initially understand all the services their insurance broker can provide. An annual account review is an excellent example and a great learning experience.

What’s an Account Review?

It’s an opportunity to update your knowledge of insurance exposures and fine-tune your coverages.

  • Pick a date mid-year to your policy expirations – when there’s little insurance stuff going on. This should mean the broker’s not “selling.”
  • Think about what you’d like to learn or know about risk or insurance – for free! Also determine if there is someone else in your business who could learn from being present.
  • Be proactive to make it worth your time … read on.

Plan your Meeting

  • Invite your broker to lunch – with a tour around your business beforehand.
  • Point out anything new – equipment, processes, products or services, major vendors or customers.
  • Get his or her experienced, “new set of eyes” view of your operations to uncover new or unexpected risks.

In a risk assessment factory tour the client showed me a “de-burring” operation with a very fast turning drill press-type machine. When I noticed the woman working there had long hair with no net or tie-back, I asked him quietly to have her stop the machine. I then explained and showed her what could happen if her hair got caught in the spinning equipment. The “new set of eyes” was a lucky break for all involved.

  • Introduce your broker to several of your specialist workers and have them express their opinions about risks and concerns.

What are your To-Dos?

  • Over lunch, take time to make notes about anything you’ve both learned: any recommendations, resources the broker may have, or things to consider.
    -   Can a safety or loss control expert make an inspection?
    -   Can someone speak to your safety committee or at an employee meeting?
  • Ask about insurance market or legal trends.
    -   What new coverages, exclusions, or price increases are around the corner and how you can prepare?
    -   What new lawsuits have been happening?
  • Talk about the timing of the next renewal process so you know what to expect.
    -   Update your calendar and alert colleagues about information needs.
    -  Make clear to your broker that you want proposals at least two weeks in advance of the renewal date.
  • Finally, work on your business relationship with your broker – family, hobbies, vacations, recent professional courses, and most importantly who should you think about referring to him or her as a possible new customer.
  • Re-schedule the account review process for next year!

What could make your risk and insurance management easier and more cost-effective?

Call or email to discuss questions or concerns: (510-685-3883charles@risksmartsolutions.com)

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How To Train Your Attorney

by Charles T. Wilson on August 11, 2014

Do I hear a snort?  Or possibly an “Oh, sure?” Does the title sound like How To Train Your Dragon? And when you question an invoice you’ll get your eyebrows singed off?

For many reasons, lawyering has evolved. Remember when your family doctor, the local GP, knew and did everything? Today they are all medical specialists and are questioned and second-guessed by many patients. Attorneys are the same, and most realize they don’t have all the answers. Working in concert with clients is not frowned upon.

Where do you Start?

Like it or not, for health and survival you need your doctor, and your business needs an attorney. The first step is choosing the right attorney for your industry, business, and legal needs.

Find the best person for the job by:

  • Interviewing several. Tell them what you’re doing, request a no-cost meeting, and pay attention to their “fit” with you and your business style.
  • Asking about their areas of specialization and how they can get you other expertise when you need it. Make sure you understand what “privilege” means.
  • Inquiring about the office staff – is there a back-up team for an urgent matter?
  • Discussing fees and flat-fee options for certain work like contract reviews. Are they open, flexible, and even pro-active in helping you manage costs? Insist on regular billing – not a huge whack six months down the road.

Getting Down to Work

  • Once you’re comfortable and think the relationship can work, explain your business in depth and your risk concerns.
  • To address your legal needs, I recommend you ask them for ideas from their experience before telling them what you think you need.
  • Ask how they have handled these issues for others – get “real” stories and examples.
  • Ask how they handle disagreements with clients. Do they use a written service agreement? You want an advisor who works with you, doesn’t tell you just what you want to hear, or gives ultimatums.

Address Future Issues

  • What could come up to derail all your plans? Raise issues now while everyone’s friendly. Be open and brutally honest about you and any potential problems.
  • Will they take an active role in learning about you and your business? How do they charge for that learning curve?
  • Can you create a plan to prevent a legal emergency? Will they accept a heads-up email that something’s coming up and work with your schedule?
  • How will they make sure you have complete understanding of their guidance or recommendation? Can they provide a legal dictionary and a lower paid clerk to clarify or explain a complex or obscure remark?

You should also quiz them on whether they’re willing to have a general discussion meeting at no charge once or twice a year. Ask them to lunch, then learn about legal trends that could impact you, contract revisions to better protect all parties, etc.

Anything you can do to proactively manage the relationship will be good for you and your attorney. You need someone you trust, respect, and enjoy doing business with.  With some focus and discipline it’s easy to train your attorney – and yourself – to get the best for your business and peace of mind

Call or email Charles (510-685-3883 | charles@risksmartsolutions.com) if you need more details or have a unique situation – there’s no obligation.

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Safety Training and Recordkeeping

July 21, 2014

This is the last of RiskSmart’s Safety Series discussions (see Tips #85-#88 to see the previous posts). These will be consolidated into an e-book shortly and made available to subscribers. Two final elements of any safety plan are training and recordkeeping. These are not afterthoughts, but essential foundations and where the plan must start. Successful Training? […]

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Correcting Safety Hazards

June 17, 2014

We’ve talked about a Safety Plan as a critical foundation to ensuring business survival.  Many businesses round out the culture of Safety by including product and service reliability and quality – or as one client’s work shirts say, “No Excuses.” The previous Tip (#87, Communicating Safety) discussed the best techniques for identifying safety hazards.  Here […]

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Communicating Safety

May 2, 2014

(Part 3 of the Safety Series.  See Tip 85 and Tip 86 for the entire series.) A Safety program is a living, growing, changing system.  If not – if it’s on the shelf – it won’t survive day-to-day problems and priorities.  And everyone will be surprised when the accident does occur.  Everyone except OSHA, that […]

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The First Steps Toward Productivity, Quality and Safety

April 7, 2014

Many business people don’t quickly and easily connect the three areas mentioned in the Tip title.  How often do you see that? In simple terms, Productivity is “on time, on budget” and enhancing the bottom line profits of the firm.  Quality is producing products and services that meet or exceed customer expectations.  And Safety is […]

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Safety and the Bottom Line

March 11, 2014

In the past three to five years I’ve become painfully aware how fundamental safety is to risk management and to business owners’ bottom line. I’ve seen workers’ compensation “experience mod” rates soar with: a couple of nasty – but preventable – worker injuries; a shoulder “strain” that morphed into surgery and 9 months of rehab; […]

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Can You Make Cents of it All? Minimum Wages 2014 and Beyond

February 10, 2014

Federal, State and County laws throughout the US have varying minimum wages and they are changing at a more frequent rate than ever. Some studies indicate an increase will stimulate local economies and put less stress on social services; and yet other groups predict an exodus of businesses from the highest wage areas. While we […]

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2014 Risk and Protection Checklist

January 12, 2014

As you organize your priorities for the New Year, here are 7 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.  An annual schedule for these updates on your calendar can be effective in […]

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Can Your Business Run Without You?

December 9, 2013

While Charles continues his recovery, RiskSmart Tips would like to thank several colleagues for volunteering to contribute their professional views, particularly in the areas of avoiding, planning for, and managing business risk.  This month’s tip has been authored by Mike Van Horn of The Business Group. Can Your Business Run Without You? If all decisions […]

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Managing Your IT Risk

November 11, 2013

Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report 2013 lists small businesses as the target of 31% of all cyber attacks in 2012, up from 18% in 2011. “While it can be argued that the rewards of attacking a small business are less than what can be gained from a large enterprise, this is more than compensated by […]

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The Checklist

October 7, 2013

While Charles continues his recovery, RiskSmart Tips would like to thank several colleagues for volunteering to contribute their professional views, particularly in the areas of avoiding, planning for, and managing a crisis.  This month’s tip has been authored by Bart Gragg, founder of Blue Collar University®. Several years ago Charles introduced me to the bestselling […]

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The Extreme Case, and The Consequences

September 10, 2013

My name is Patrick Wilson; I am Charles’ son and am contributing this month’s blog. On July 25, my parents returned from a trip to visit family in New York State and Canada.  The next day was Friday, and my father found himself suffering from flu-like symptoms, including a headache, fatigue, and high fever.  By […]

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Fast Growth Can Be Risky Business

July 8, 2013

Many business people envy the companies that are on the “100 Fastest Growing” lists.  The risk manager says, “Be careful what you wish for.”  Sometimes what looks good from the outside can be a painful problem on the inside. What happens when you grow too fast? Mike Van Horn, President of The Business Group (businessownerstoolbox.com), […]

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The Fastest Way to Improved Productivity

June 11, 2013

What’s the fastest way to improve business productivity?  Lots of organizations struggle to just set basic priorities, get things done on time/on budget, and keep everyone focused and safe on the job.    There’s so much “noise” in today’s business world it’s hard to know who’s on first – with internet orders, marketing key words, employee […]

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Exit Checklist

May 7, 2013

“If you don’t know where you’re going you might wind up someplace else.” ~Yogi Berra Isn’t planning great?  Some folks seem to spend their time writing stuff down and never really doing anything.  While others write what they just did on a To Do list so they can cross it off.  Yogi’s quote above is […]

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Exit Stage Right

April 9, 2013

The last RiskSmart Tip was about Transitions   – the ones you or your business could experience whether you plan for them or not! This Tip will provide an initial Checklist to help you get started on a graceful exit.  It can’t cover everything: it’s intended as a starting point.  Your primary goal is to […]

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Transitions: Good News – Bad News

March 12, 2013

Good news might be when your MD says you’re as strong as a horse and you’ll live at least another 20 years!  The bad news is now you can’t avoid completing the Transition Plan for your business, rather than just slipping out the back door! Planning of any kind is a struggle for many.  Some […]

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Howdy Partner – Friend or Foe

February 12, 2013

I remember what is probably an apocryphal story about the Lone Ranger and his sidekick, Tonto riding over the ridge to face a large band of hostile Indians.  The Lone Ranger says, “I think we’re in some big trouble here, Tonto.”  And Tonto replies, “What you mean ‘we’ Kemosabe?”   Oops – friend or foe? Partnerships […]

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Annual Risk and Protection Checklist

January 8, 2013

What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know.  It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.  ~ Mark Twain As you organize your priorities for the New Year, here are 7 key Risk and Protection reminders for your checklist.  Many of these we know are important , yet they’re often […]

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Disasters – 10 Ways to Be Prepared

December 11, 2012

Quote:  Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.  ~ Abraham Lincoln   Title: Disasters – 10 Ways to Be Prepared   “Disasters” for small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) can arise from many sources and come in all shapes and sizes.  Many studies report that 60% […]

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Annual Insurance Budget Alert

November 27, 2012

Many businesses and not-for-profit organizations want to plan for next year’s revenues and expenses.  For many, insurance premiums can have a major impact and may require adjusted pricing on products and services in 2013. RiskSmart Solutions has polled a number of California brokers for their best estimates and I’m pleased to provide these for your […]

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Annual Cold Weather Alert

November 20, 2012

Winter’s fast approaching – or already here – in many parts of the US.  Even the San Francisco Bay Area may experience some record lows over the next few weeks.  Is your business or home at risk? Consider extra protection for your exterior sprinkler valves, water pipes, faucets and hoses. Sprinkler valves need special jackets […]

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Time Change and Smoke Alarms

November 16, 2012

While many people have hard-wired smoke detectors as part of their home alarm systems, they often supplement that system with battery-powered extra units. Residential smoke alarms need to be on every level and are recommended in every bedroom – especially if doors get closed. Experts say to change your 9-volt batteries at least once a […]

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Saftey and First Aid Equal a Winning Strategy

October 9, 2012

Workers sometimes joke – particularly within earshot of a Safety person – that, “Safety comes third – first there’s lunch, then break!” At least they’re thinking about it! Safety = good investment ~ From a business perspective, safety is a good investment. Every safety professional will tell you it costs $6-10 to fix the accident […]

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Insurance Premium Audits

September 11, 2012

Many business insurance policies are subject to audit by the insurance company.  Initial premiums are calculated from revenue, payroll or other estimates. These estimates can change and, no surprise, the insurer wants more premium! What can go wrong? Revenue and payroll estimates can go up or down. While they’ll want additional premium for “up,” you’ll […]

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Certificates Not Always Certain

August 7, 2012

Certificates of Insurance and Additional Insured (AI) endorsements are usually a “best practice” whenever you hire subcontractors and certain suppliers and vendors.  Many businesses don’t understand the pitfalls of getting this right. Remember that insurance is the other side’s financial back-stop to indemnify you for losses due to their negligence or contractual responsibilities. Certificates and […]

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Advisors You Can Rely On

July 11, 2012

Last month’s Tip discussed the need for risk management in addition to an organization’s insurance broker.  What other “experts” do you depend on?  In today’s economy, with increased outsourcing, the list, and the risks, can be huge. Many businesses need – attorneys with various specialties, CPA/tax advisors and perhaps a bookkeeper, bankers, financial/investment planners, Human […]

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Why You Need a Risk Manager

June 13, 2012

Many mid-size organizations depend on just an insurance broker for their entire Risk Protection Program.  Today’s world is marked by increasing business complexity and insurance coverage restrictions.  Should we be surprised that execs still get blindsided by claims and lawsuits that aren’t covered by their insurance? Typically, larger firms have in-house risk managers for broad, […]

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Difference Between Business Expense and Investment

May 7, 2012

It’s easy in a rough economy to misunderstand the difference between a business expense and an investment.  They both look like the same cash out the door!  Unfortunately, when expense cuts are across the board, the law of unintended consequences can rear its ugly head. Short-sighted ~ I remember my employer, a major insurance organization, […]

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Take Care of Important Business First

March 29, 2012

Here’s a not-so-successful story about Risk Management.  It’s sad, and I wish I could have done more to prevent it. I was working with a start-up client to get a new Employee Benefits Program up and running.  We were in the “final” stages for several months:  there were just a couple basic decisions to make, […]

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Risk Profiles Save Money

March 4, 2012

Do duct tape and plastic sheeting form the cornerstone of your business security and protection plan?  Were things ever that simple?  Here’s the real question:  How do you handle the high costs of insurance premiums? If you take a common-sense approach to risk management, you can significantly reduce your risks, minimize your potential losses and […]

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Warning – Hard Insurance Market Ahead

February 8, 2012

The insurance market has been “soft” for a long time.  Renewals with lower costs now seem normal, and you may have gotten better coverage too, if your broker was paying attention.  Clients and RiskSmart Tips subscribers know this is not a forever thing.  Inside information and preparation can save you a lot of hassle – […]

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2012 Risk Protection Checklist

January 17, 2012

As you organize your priorities for the New Year here are 7 key Risk and Protection reminders for your checklist. Many of these we know are important, yet they’re often not immediately urgent and so they fall to the bottom of the pile. An annual schedule and planning can be effective in avoiding that last […]

Read the full article →