4 Ways An Insurance Agent Can Make Farm Safety Less Painful

You’ve probably heard the statistics that show agriculture is a dangerous business. Although I haven’t seen the comparison yet, you might be more likely to survive incident- free as a NASCAR driver than get through your farm through #Harvest16 unscathed.

In fact I even considered titling this blog article, “Do You Know Your Farm is a Disaster Waiting to Happen?”

It’s no surprise that an insurance agent would write about farm safety during National Farm Safety and Health Week #FSHW2016. However it might surprise you this is not a lecture on how you need to be doing more to keep your farm safe and healthy.

Yes farm safety is primarily a do-it-yourself type of assignment. It is up to you, your family, and your entire operation to have an emergency action plan, procedures for a variety of disaster scenarios both natural and man-made, and properly train everyone involved in those procedures. There are so many bases to cover. It can be a daunting and detailed task.

You are probably already doing all you can to make it safe and healthy.

But you don’t have to go it alone.

There are at least four things your insurance agent can do to help you with your farm’s safety.

1) An extra set of eyes.  When your insurance agent first comes out to view your property prior to writing your account they can provide an extra set of eyes to uncover trouble areas. You already knew that insurance agents seem to ask an unending barrage of questions. These typically are not only to classify your farm for rating purposes, but more importantly used in determining if your operation could have some elevated risk factors. A walk on your farm with you (even at renewal if you’ve already been with your agent for awhile) can allow your insurance agent to see hazards from a fresh perspective.

2) Maps and lists and inventories, oh my. When an agent first writes the policy on your farm they have to draw maps of your property (e.g. showing where buildings are in relation to water sources/other buildings/ roadways) and create inventories of your equipment to submit to the insurance company. These maps and inventories can help if you are creating or updating your emergency action plan. Even if you have your own maps and inventories, make sure and share those with your insurance agent because then you know you have an extra copy in safe keeping off premises. Check with your insurance agent to find out if they can store your information electronically on a secure, cloud based document storage and give you an added layer of protection.

3) Professional help and I don’t mean psychiatric. Either through the insurance agency or your insurance carrier there are typically additional resources for risk assessment/safety measures. Some resources may be as simple as templates to help you create procedure manuals or printable safety signage to post throughout the premises. Or it could be more hands on like an agency or company risk manager who can make an annual visit for larger agribusinesses. Although after the visit there may be a list of improvements required based on their findings, it is better to address those hazards before a loss occurs.

4) Oh yeah you might want someone else to foot the bill. The most obvious way an insurance agent makes farm safety less painful is by recommending what coverages can protect you financially. Although insurance doesn’t stop the disaster from occurring it can certainly soften the blow by lessening the monetary repercussions. This could include more than just your typical farm insurance. Pollution liability, product liability, equipment breakdown, loss of income, flood insurance, even cyber liability may be advisable.

Your farm operations may include agritourism activities not normally covered by farm insurance and require specialty coverage. Agritourism can present additional risk since it inherently exposes more of your farm to the public. Again there are resources available that can help you determine what safety measures need to be added to meet the level of risk involved.

The work involved in planning for farm safety and then executing those plans is extensive. Your insurance agent may be able to help with some of all of the four ways I’ve listed.

If they offer none of those things – you are missing out on a value added partner in keeping your farm safe.

I’d be happy to discuss with North Carolina farm owners what options I have available. Morrow Insurance Agency, Inc. has an on-staff risk manager that assists in larger operations, multiple farm carriers with resources available, and additional solutions for specialty coverage. I can be reached at my work number 828-652-6212 or via work email: tcotton@morrowinsurance.com.



Could Going Without Work Comp Put Your Small Business in a World of Hurt?

work comp picture

But I’m not required by law to have work comp unless I have “X” number of employees.

How dangerous could it be to work in an office?

If I get work comp then I’m afraid employees will want to use it.

I could keep listing the excuses. But the general consensus amongst small business owners and small farm owners is that workers compensation insurance isn’t necessary unless somebody makes them take it. However the reality of not carrying work comp is that it could end up hurting your business.

Do you really know if your business is compliant with the law?

A beauty salon that was set up as a corporation had 2 officers (literally co-owners) and for years they had no other “employees”. The other hairdressers were all independent operators who paid a booth fee and were not considered employees of the salon because they determined their own schedules and were not considered under the supervision of the salon. Until the day the salon decided to hire a part time assistant. To sweep and help wash hair. Months went by and neither owner ever thought that they were breaking any laws. However because the salon was a corporation with 2 officers, in North Carolina they each counted as 1 employee and by adding a part time person that reached the 3 employee requirement for work comp. Once put on notice by the NC Industrial Commission they immediately got coverage but are still in negotiations over fines imposed for the months where they were not covered by work comp.

Each state has their own laws regarding work comp and verifying with the industrial commission or other governing body of your state is advisable to prevent non-compliance.

How dangerous could it be to work in an office (or whatever you do that seems really low risk)?

In 2007 an office worker was injured when an object fell off a shelf and hit her in the head. Nine years later work comp is still paying and the claim is nearing $400,000. For a seemingly minor injury in a low risk environment with no obvious safety concerns. You can bet this non-profit with only 3 employees has been happy to pay less than $1000 a year for work comp knowing it didn’t have to budget for the long term medical care of a former employee.

If I get work comp then I’m afraid employees will want to use it.

If you don’t have work comp then an employee might not seek treatment until its almost too late. A small business had an employee that suffered a cut while on the job. Over the next few weeks the cut became infected and the employee ended up in the hospital with blood poisoning. If the employer had insisted the employee seek medical attention at the onset the infection might have been avoided.

So what’s the good news about getting work comp?

Starting now means developing a history while payrolls are still low and makes you a better risk just by having the policy.

Getting work comp when your payroll is low means that the premium will be at a minimum. Once you have work comp insurance your business or farm can develop a favorable claims history that will benefit your rates as your payroll grows. Other insurance policies like general liability are also rated with a good claims history in mind but work comp is more directly correlated.

Once an employer is large enough to be paying more in premium there is a factor applied to the premium called experience modification (or experience mod). A favorable experience mod earned from having fewer claims works like a discount because it lowers the premium. Although a bad claims history will do the opposite to your premium the positive effect is that as time goes by without claims it will improve.

If you wait to get work comp until your business or farm is “large” enough or until you think you are at a higher risk or until you think the law will require it you will miss out on developing a good risk history.

Regardless of the size of your business, your employees are your greatest asset. Purchasing work comp is your way to protect them and their value.

If you don’t have work comp you are gambling that the one employee or two who isn’t covered won’t hurt your business.

One employee with one injury could lead your business into a world of hurt.


How to Cover Your Tail: Tailgate Market Insurance is Important

This week somewhere near you in North Carolina there will be a tailgate market. No matter where you live or where you go because they are everywhere, especially this time of year.

VIDEO:  Cover Your Tail: Why Your Tailgate Market Needs Insurance

The term farmer’s market is sometimes used for tailgate markets. However tailgate markets are more specifically where farmers come together in a parking lot or other non-owned spot where they sell their produce and other products right off their vehicle.

So why am I suggesting that a tailgate market should cover its “tail” with insurance? Because if someone gets hurt while at the market – it will most likely fall on the organizer or organization holding the market to pay for the injury.

It’s just produce and people – how risky could that be?

Here’s a real life scenario – a tailgate market in Western NC is informed that a patron at the market trips over a speed bump in the parking lot and breaks a wrist. The speed bump of course belongs to the parking lot owner. The tailgate market doesn’t own the parking lot, they just rent it. However the parking lot owner doesn’t want to file the claim on their insurance because it happened during the tailgate market.

This tailgate market is smart and has general liability insurance which pays the medical bills for the injured person. Thankfully it didn’t end up in court but even if it had, the insurance carrier would’ve represented the market and paid out if there was a judgment.

The market doesn’t have to pay anything and their relationship with the parking lot owner is better than ever. Happy ending.

How do I know? That tailgate market is my client.

If you run a tailgate market in North Carolina please give me a call today and let’s discuss how to keep your tail covered. Call Morrow Insurance Agency at 828-652-6212 and ask for Tracy Cotton or email me tcotton@morrowinsurance.com .



Five Problems with NC Farmowners Insurance

“Don’t let your NC Farmowners Insurance put you SIDEWAYS at the time of a claim.” – Tracy Cotton, Morrow Insurance Agency

I’m not throwing eggs at any agents or carriers or even the industry here. It would be a terrible waste of perfectly good cage-free, antibiotic free, organic eggs. I’m also not going to point fingers. I am however pointing…as in pointing out some flaws I see in North Carolina Farmowners insurance. The purpose however of finding the flaws is knowing how to fix them. That’s what I do – find and fix.

I’ve been reviewing farmowners policies for twenty years now. Which means I have seen a lot of missing coverages, outdated information, and other problems with farmowners insurance. At times through those years I didn’t have great options to offer to fix those problems. Now I’m in a position with several carriers and a lot of choices when it comes to tailoring a policy to fix problems when I find them. However I decided it might help to first get people digging in their policies.

I’ve narrowed the big list of problems that regularly “crop” up to the 5 I think are most common. Although I’ve specified North Carolina insurance because it’s what I primarily handle, I’d “bet the farm” these same problems are not unique to NC.


This problem is a growing one. Many folks are starting to dabble in growing food and raising livestock in their not-so-farm-sized backyards. Even if they are not in the business of selling the food or animals their homeowners policy could have some significant gaps in coverage.

What’s the big deal? Doesn’t a home policy cover a house, other structures, loss of use and liability? Sure. But it wasn’t designed to cover animal exposure (other than some family pets) and there is limited coverage for any business exposure (and yes selling your eggs to your neighbors might be a business by definition).

If you were raising a cow to milk for your family and the cow was struck by lightning would you expect your homeowners policy to pay you for the loss? What if you decided to start a bee colony at your house do you think your home policy would address the claim if you were sued for your neighbor’s child being stung? A home policy simply can’t do what a farmowners insurance policy can.


You took out the policy years ago and haven’t reviewed the coverages since then. I have seen this scenario more than should happen. Your agent comes out (hopefully!) and walks your property when you first take the policy out so they can see your buildings, check for conditions, and be aware how everything is being used. Then time goes by and maybe you add more structures, upgrade your barn, or abandon a building all together.

If you haven’t advised your agent of these changes then your farmowners policy may not be adequately written. Reviewing the policy annually is the best way to avoid the possibility of being caught unaware. Or perhaps uninsured.


It’s pretty time consuming to milk a herd of cows when the milking equipment isn’t working. Fields don’t get themselves ready without the tractor. A lot of NC Farmowners policies are missing the Equipment Breakdown endorsement. This coverage has some limits but in general can pay out for when things just quit on you. Even your computer or well pump. Repairs or replacement of equipment is costly and the Equipment Breakdown endorsement could be well worth the premium to add it to your policy.


Although most NC Farmowners insurance will cover loss of use of the residence covered on the policy that is not the same as loss of income on the business. After a loss occurs there could be a considerable amount of time where no income is coming in because of a covered loss. Buildings used in the production end of your farm could take a while to be rebuilt and during those weeks it results in loss of farm earnings. Adding farm earnings and extra expense (like borrowing, renting, or outsourcing facilities and equipment) to the farmowners policy will give back that lost money.


The modern farmer is often creative in finding new ways to make money on the farm and with the things they raise or grow. Having the corn maze in the fall on your farm is not the same kind of risk as when you were just growing the crop in those fields. Changing or adding products from your crops could open you up to new liability and recall dangers.

If you are now making a perishable item that you store on the farm you could need spoilage coverage to protect your investment. Maybe it sounded like a good idea to post the cabin on the back of the property up on Air BnB and you didn’t think it mattered to your insurance company. Just like changes to property can affect your coverage, so can what you are doing to make money there. The yearly review should also be a time to discuss those creative ideas.


These 5 problems with North Carolina Farmowners insurance aren’t the only 5. You could be missing crop insurance, pollution liability, work comp for those seasonal employees, and much more. You won’t know the problem is there perhaps until it is too late. Why not review your policy and fix the problems. Call me today at 828-652-6212 and let’s see what we can dig up together to help your NC farm grow.

Small Businesses: Make Marketing Magic in 2016

IDEAMarketing a business isn’t magic but it certainly has its similarities.

Growing up I always loved watching magic shows. I grew up with David Copperfield then graduated to watching Penn & Teller, David Blaine and Criss Angel. Their styles were all very different but the appeal of their magic was pretty simple.

Magic makes the impossible seem easy.
Same goes for marketing. When I look around I see so many businesses that are successful at creating social media connections, creating brand awareness, and making their content so relevant. Like the magicians they may have different styles but they make marketing seem so easy.
And like magicians, the businesses who are really killing it in marketing are pretty tight-lipped. A magician and a successful marketer apparently guard their secrets well.
But what if small business owners banded together and shared ideas, brought in marketing experts willing to divulge their secrets, and had a supportive environment to learn how to make marketing magic for themselves? Maybe there is already a marketing mastermind group in your area that is already doing just that. The idea of a mastermind group itself is not new and may be offered through your local chamber or business associations.
However for businesses (including not for profit organizations) in McDowell County, NC the good news is there is a new group forming in January 2016. Which does not require membership in any other groups (although supported by both Marion Business Association and the McDowell Chamber of Commerce) and the meetings are FREE. The monthly meeting on the second Thursday will be 7:45-8:45 am at the MBA office at Historic Marion Depot will feature time to discuss challenges and victories,  a guest speaker on timely marketing topics, and many more benefits.
As a small business owner you can go it alone in marketing, but consider the possibilities of how collaboration and cooperation could bring more focus and less hocus pocus to your efforts.
If you are interested in forming a group in your area OR if you are a McDowell County business ready to make marketing magic in 2016 please email Tracy Cotton, insurancewisetracy@gmail.com for more information. 

What in the World is a Virtual Assistant?

Owner of KB Konnections, Virtual Business Solutions
Kim K. Brown, owner of KB Konnections, Virtual Business Solutions



As part of the InsuranceWiseTracy blog I want to make sure small business owners understand what resources are available to them. Today’s blog is written by a local friend of mine who explains what a virtual assistant is and what they can do for a small business owner. The most awesome thing about a virtual assistant is although she is based here in McDowell county, NC, today’s technology allows her to assist any size business owner any where in the world. Local businesses check out the info at the end of Kim’s article about a local event she is hosting. – Tracy

Hello my name is Kim Kincaid Brown, owner and visionary of KB Konncetions-Virtual Business Solutions. I have been a native of Mcdowell County my entire life, proud of that, and I so happy to be a business owner. But lately, I have been on the town of Marion trying to promote my business services and people are looking at me as if I have 3 heads when I say “I am a virtual assistant”. Crazy, right, I know!

First, let me give you the definition of a virtual assistant. A virtual assistant (VA) is generally self-employed and provides professional administrative, technical, or creative social assistance to clients remotely from their home office.

But many are still asking “What can a Virtual Assistant do for me?” The ways in which a VA can help you and for your business are as unique and diverse as the individual VA. To narrow down the endless possibilities, let us look at several benefits of using a VA:


  • Virtual assistants work around your schedule to provide you service whenever you need it. Think of us as your ‘on-call’ go to person. No need to hire part time employees and hope you have enough work to keep them busy for the hours they work. With a virtual assistant you only pay for time spent on YOUR project AND work can be done outside normal business hours.


  • Virtual assistants take on those every day essential tasks you don’t have time for because you’re too busy growing your business and wearing all the others hats you have to wear: sales and marketing manager, CEO, strategic planner, etc.


  • There’s no need for an actual office we work remotely, and you pay no overtime.


The benefits are endless, I could go on and on but you get the jest. Now that we have looked a t the benefits of hiring a VA, let’s look at some of the task that a VA can help you in your busy workday.

  • A VA can assist you with marketing support, increasing your clientele and freeing up valuable time to service your customers. We also can handle all your marketing and publicity helping you to spread the word about your product or services.
  • Write press release, blogs, and articles.
  • A Virtual Assistant can make your next presentation shine by giving it that polished professional presentation.
  • Handle proofing, editing, and typing all your correspondence, pleadings, manuscripts, etc., thus allowing a more professional edge to all your business communications.
  • A Virtual Assistant can take over all your bookkeeping, bills and accounts payable.
  • A Virtual Assistant can plan your next company event or outing providing for an enjoyable and memorable time for all.
  • Manage your customer service so that your customers are taken care of.
  • Manage your Social Media presence and reputation.
  • Manage and maintain your email inbox.
  • Schedule and confirm your appointments.

If you want to learn more about what a virtual assistant really is, come to the McDowell Chamber of Commerce on September 2, 2015 at 11:30AM for a FREE LUNCH and LEARN session. Hosted by Kim Brown, Owner of KB Konnections-Virtual Business SolutionsFor reservations please contact the McDowell Chamber via their website.

Check out Kim’s website. Or email her kbconnections@gmail.com


Two Coverages All Small Businesses Should Consider Putting in the “Mix”

Mr. Bob's Mixer
Mr. Bob’s Mixer

You remember Mr. Bob from a prior blog where we talked about how he makes the most delicious donuts in Western North Carolina and also how he may or may not need to be on LinkedIn? Well, Mr. Bob has been really busy lately making the donuts – he’s even been nominated for ugliest apple ugly on a FoodNetwork.com blog. (YES please go and vote online!) He’s so busy he’s decided to invest in some new equipment and enlarge his kitchen at the shop.

I like to think that this is in part due to the fact that a few months ago his mixer broke.

As you might imagine a mixer is a key piece of equipment for a donut maker. You can see in the photo that the kind of mixer that it takes to get the job done isn’t your mother’s counter top variety with the matching quilted cover. Mr. Bob’s mixer is several feet tall and holds a LOT of dough. The mixer itself is worth a significant amount of dough as well – money that is. They can be expensive to buy but are absolutely necessary to the operation of the shop. So when his mixer broke he had to put the “CLOSED” sign on the door for almost a week while he waited for the repairs to be made.

Now during that week while he waited to get the mixer repaired he called me to ask if his insurance might help him. How would insurance help him you might ask? You’re probably thinking about the typical business property policies that are sometimes fairly limited in coverage. It might only cover something happening “TO” his mixer like an electrical surge or fire or theft.

But a mixer just breaking down? Yeah not all business policies cover that.

However I knew his policy included equipment breakdown. This is to cover damages or replacement of equipment needed to run the business even when its simply mechanical breakdown. There are exclusions but I felt sure the mixer would qualify based on the definitions of equipment in his policy. This coverage can address breakdown of many types of equipment including a heating or air system since most businesses need those in order to operate as well as smaller but necessary items.

Like a mixer in a donut shop.

I also had included loss of income on his business-owners policy. Loss of income is important because when your business is shut down due to a covered loss then you can actually get reimbursed for what you normally would have made on those days. In some cases loss of income could really amount to a large sum if the business was shut down for weeks into months. The coverage has limitations but it can be written for up to a year’s worth of income and even include extra expenses incurred from getting business going again or relocating if needed.

So I turned in the loss to his insurance carrier and they paid. When I went by to get a picture of the now- repaired mixer, Mr. Bob and I discussed how pleased he was with the claim handling. He said he only ended up about $50 out-of-pocket.

Which brings us back to Mr. Bob getting to upgrade his shop with a bigger kitchen and some new equipment. What if he’d had to absorb the full cost of repairing his current mixer as well as weathering the loss of almost a week of income? Maybe he’d have had to wait on expanding his business, but instead he’s going full steam ahead.

What if in your business you had to stay closed awaiting a repair or worse, a rebuild of the business location? What if you couldn’t open because of a mechanical breakdown? Equipment breakdown and loss of income are both coverages not always included or sometimes limited that any small business should consider putting in the “mix”.

You Don’t But Someone Else Does: 5 Reasons Small Businesses Should Outsource Social Media

photo credit: Day Eighty Nine No Ideas via photopin (license)
photo credit: Day Eighty Nine No Ideas via photopin (license)


Earlier this year I wrote a blog about why small businesses shouldn’t start on social media. The real message was that they really should be on there, however there were things to consider first like their audience, etc.

Since I work exclusively with small businesses I know many who get on social media, even with the right focus, still become frustrated. Small businesses have 5 things they DON’T do about social media, that all add up to finding someone else who DOES.

I’ve enlisted the help of a trusted resource (and another Tracy!), Tracy Taylor of TNT Marketing, for the reasons it’s both smart and economical to outsource your social media. She has worked up a list of the most common reasons she hears small businesses complain about social media and I’ve provided some commentary on those DON’T’s:

DON’T #1: You don’t know how. That would be because you are good at other things. Like running a business. Like making products, or selling products, or serving others, or whatever it is your business does. You may have already learned a lot about social media in attempting to use it for marketing. There is no shame in not knowing all the best channels or best times of day to post or best length of a post or best content or best keywords, and so forth. You don’t, but there are social media managers out there that do.

DON’T #2: You don’t know what social media can do for your business. That would be because you have yet to see any results. Oh, wait. Perhaps the lack of results goes back to DON’T #1. You don’t know how to do it so the results aren’t showing up yet. However if the right person was posting for you with the right content on the right channels, you could be amazed at what social media can do for your business.

DON’T#3: You don’t like social media. I don’t like changing the oil in my car. I actually do know how but it gives me no satisfaction to do it myself. As a business owner you may have to do a lot of things you don’t really enjoy – like taxes or answering the phone or shipping orders. Why add another few minutes a day of doing something you don’t like by doing your own social media?

DON’T #4: You don’t feel you have anything to say. This goes back primarily to DON’T’s #1-3. If you don’t know how, or why, or even enjoy social media then you aren’t likely to posting often enough to make a difference. Unfortunately social media is a marketing tool that is worse to use occasionally than not at all. Consistency and content are key for results whereas sporadic and haphazard can actually discourage potential followers.

So even if you are trying to post some on social media you could be wasting your time.  In small business time IS money.  Which means even free marketing could be costing you income.

Which brings us to DON’T #5: You don’t have enough time to do social media. Of course you don’t have time because as a business owner you are busy running a business. You have customers to keep happy. Maybe even employees to keep happy. You deserve to be happy too. Instead of trying to conquer all the things about social media you DON’T do, it’s a good idea to find someone who does.

Here’s some of what a legitimate, experienced with small business, social media management service like Tracy and her team at TNT Marketing can provide:

•we manually post to your Social networks, every business day;
•we post content about your business and industry, establishing you as the go-to authority;
•no scheduling; all posts are real-time and human-made;
•posts are done by writers based in the USA;
•we monitor engagement;
•we grow Followers naturally (not ‘purchased followers’); and
•no blackhat stuff to get your accounts banned!

The end result of good social media as described by the team at TNT Marketing:

•higher search engine ranking for your site;
•a great way to build recognizable branding for any products or services you want to promote;
•more inbound links that point back to your official site;
•more visibility and recognition for your business and services;
•solid relationships with your clients, partners, vendors, and staff.

If you do your own social media your cost is only your time (which may or may not be costing you in the long run) and perhaps some paid advertising through Facebook or other channels. You may thoroughly enjoy posting your own content and feel good about the results you are getting. However if you DON’T when it comes to social media why not outsource? It’s like hiring a good attorney, a good CPA, or even a good insurance agent – sometimes it is better to spend a little to make more.*


*You may not have a large budget for this outsourcing either so make sure and look for a social media provider who can customize their services to fit your needs. I’m including the contact information for Tracy Taylor and her team at TNT Marketing specifically because they offer the power of choice. Part of being experts in working with small business is their understanding that one service package does not fit all.  You can reach Tracy Taylor at : tracy@tntmarketing.com or 865-809-5989

Not Worth The Wait – 3 Ways Your Procastination to Buy Insurance is Bad for Business


I’ve put off writing this blog for a couple of weeks now. Procrastination is so easy to fall into: “I’ll write the blog tomorrow when I have more time”. Tomorrow comes but you never have more time.

Have you been putting off buying the insurance you need for your business? Because you are too busy working on your business? Or have you put it off because you are afraid of how much it will cost? I bet you even procrastinated READING this blog post.

Because realistically speaking once you actually read why putting off buying insurance was hurting your business, you knew you might have to do…something. It is so much easier to put things off.

Easier, that is, until it hurts your business.

Here’s the top 3 reasons putting off on buying insurance can hurt your business:

1) The most obvious? If you keep waiting to get insurance you are gambling that you aren’t going to have a loss. A bad wager considering the number of small businesses suffering claims every year. Just because your business is small doesn’t mean the cost of a theft, fire, or slip and fall would be small. Although insurance for a small business is a major expense it is still proportionately a good financial deal in exchange for you getting to continue your business.

Not afraid of statistics? Here’s a link to the top ten claims for small business owners so you can decide for yourself if you can afford to be uninsured at the time of a loss: http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2015/04/09/these-are-the-top-10-property-and-liability-claims

2) Insurance doesn’t get cheaper with time but carrying insurance can make insurance cheaper over time. Yes, that may seem weird and yet its similar to the way your home and auto insurance works – many companies give price breaks for longevity.

In the business insurance world it works a bit different with same results. Your options for more competitive rates are directly related to how long you have previously had insurance and how many claims you have filed. A start up business with no insurance history is a blank slate – something many underwriters either find unappealing or would only be willing to insure for a price.

However that same business a few years down the road may get preferred rates and coverages if there were no claims or only a minor incident to review. The message an underwriter sees in a business that doesn’t carry insurance is one of possible irresponsibility or unstable financial future (also a red flag for most companies).

3) Not having insurance can mean not getting more work for your business or not being able to lease the space you need to operate/expand. Have you had to pass on possible contracts because they require you to carry general liability or worker’s compensation? Have you realized that most leases require you to provide your own general liability as well as possibly protect the building under your insurance? Your procrastination to buy insurance is not only putting your business at risk and not helping with future insurance costs; it is also going to possibly stand in your way of making you more money through new clients or a new location.

So have you just been putting it off because of fear of cost? If you have already gotten quotes and determined your budget will be strained, please consider the 3 ways NOT buying insurance is hurting your business.

If you haven’t even gotten quotes then do it TODAY. Putting it off is easy but the results of procrastination may not be so easy.

Why LinkedIn is Relevant for Small Business Owners – Unless You Sell Donuts

donutI love Mr. Bob’s Do-Nuts. His tiny storefront in downtown Marion, NC is easy to miss except for the amazing smell of sugar that permeates the air 6 days a week. Bob Masiello and his family make a variety of donuts, one of which is the Apple Ugly (photo above) and I assure you its the best apple fritter you have ever tasted.  They are doing a pretty steady business considering they just opened their doors in October of 2014. Their Facebook page  has a growing following and they have a simple but effective website.

But Mr. Bob himself has only one connection on LinkedIn and doesn’t appear to use it regularly. Should he be concerned? Is LinkedIn relevant for Bob?

It could be.

According to Expandedramblings.com : 107 million users in the United States are using LinkedIn and 90 % of LinkedIn users are the decision maker in the household. Impressive statistics.  However having more connections and a completed profile probably won’t sell any more donuts for Mr. Bob.

So why should a small business owner like Mr. Bob participate on LinkedIn if he isn’t prospecting for business clients or job seeking? Because LinkedIn is an easy way for Mr. Bob to network with other small businesses as well find as experts in business to learn from.

Mr. Bob is open 5 days a week making the donuts while most of us sleep and may not have much time to get out and network but if he wanted to get advice or network with other entrepreneurs LinkedIn has thousands of groups for that. Search Start-Up on LinkedIn groups and there are 2,881.

OK so I didn’t find any groups specific to donut shops. However if he wants to learn more about social media for small business I found 378 results for that. Since he may want to expand to more than just donuts I found 2,665 results in groups for restaurants. Perhaps he is concerned about hiring practices? 82 results for small business HR.

The point is LinkedIn could provide resources to Mr. Bob regarding how to run his business that he can utilize at his convenience and for free. There are useful articles being shared from other sources or original content published on LinkedIn by business experts so think of LinkedIn as a business “how-to” feed. He could also use LinkedIn to research local service providers when he decides to hire a CPA, attorney or marketing consultant.

I am Mr. Bob’s insurance agent so I hope he doesn’t go looking for another anytime soon.

If your small business does depend on selling to other businesses then LinkedIn is an obvious choice of social media outlet to spend time. However the advantages of utilizing LinkedIn as a place to network, learn and research for a small business owner who needs to do these things on their own time, free of charge are significant.

Even if you are selling donuts.