You've likely spent a lot of time and effort to carefully and strategically launch your business, but do you have the insurance you want? Many small-business owners and entrepreneurs aren't knowledgeable about insurance, and the wrong type or not enough coverage can put even the most successful organization out of business, fast.
Of course, we're in the business of providing insurance, so you might expect us to promote the product--but this really is something businesses need to focus on. We sat down with Christian Slayton, who owns the Christian Slayton Insurance Agency in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and who's been a Farmers Insurance agent for 18 years, specializing in working with small-businesses, offers her thoughts.
Q. Generally, what types of insurance coverage do you discuss with small-business owners?
A. I think life insurance and workers comp insurance are important. Businesses may not be required to have workers comp in place until they have a certain number of full-time employees, but a lot of owners don't realize that they may count as employees too. So, always check to determine whether you need workers comp coverage for your business.
Umbrella insurance can provide liability coverage over and above what's covered under your standard policy. And EPLI--employment practices liability insurance--can cover employment claims, which can quickly become costly.
Q. What are some of the most common insurance mistakes you see businesses making?
A. From experience, I believe a lot of business owners underestimate the amount of insurance they'll need. Business owners may be overwhelmed by all the different coverages, but those coverages are used because in the short and long term, they can be important. I have seen a business that didn't purchase enough insurance to fully insure its property and contents to full value and I have seen a business who placed the company's delivery vans on their personal coverage policy instead of seeking a business-specific coverage.
Because every business is unique it's helpful to talk to your local insurance agent, they can help guide you as you sort through the options you may need for your business.
Q: What are key things that more specialized businesses could consider?
A: I like to look at insurance through the same mindset I look at retirement planning--what's right for me may not be right for you, and it definitely isn't right for every person or business. There are core elements, for sure, that everyone might want to consider. For example, opening a retirement savings account. It can be a great first step, but can't be your only step. Approaching your company's insurance needs like you would approach retirement planning can allow you to find out about insurance options for your business and purchase the insurance coverage you want that meets your needs.
There are certainly coverage needs specific to your business type. A fertility clinic, for instance, may have different business needs to plan for purchasing policies for the cold storage units and other unique business items. And, if you're a yoga studio small business owner or a massage therapist business owner, you might have different liability needs than a business who sells candles.
Q. How can small-business owners make sure they purchase the insurance they want?
A. You don't know what you don't know, so one of the most important things is to align yourself with someone who's knowledgeable about business insurance. An insurance agent can help show you insurance options so you can select the type of insurance you want for your business.
Finding the right agent is important and could potentially determine if you end up with the appropriate coverage or not. The best thing to do is to start with referrals. Ask your friends and family who they work with. You might ask other business owners in your industry what type of coverage they have and from who they obtained that coverage from. You can also search the internet for reviews of agents in your area. Check the internet for the financial strength of the company they represent and also check for complaints about the agent or agency. You want to end up with a lot of choices.
Once you have a list you can start contacting the agents and interviewing them over the phone. Some important questions to ask include, how long have they been in business, what do they know about your industry, and why should you go with their company over another? Once you've narrowed down you options, a face-to-face meeting can make or break your final decision. Don't forget that you can also ask for references from the agent.
You need to be able to build a relationship on trust because you will need your agent's support through all the many changes you will experience as your business grows.
It's also a good idea to budget for insurance costs when you're drawing up a business plan. Just like you'd plan for marketing or advertising, make sure that your plan includes insurance. Costs vary, depending on your level of liability and your business, so make sure to get estimates from a knowledgeable insurance agent.