Thursday, April 3, 2014

INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR THE SMALL AND MEDIUM BUSINESS

(From the prospective of a personal injury trial lawyer)

This blog post was written by attorney Daniel Allen of Bautista Allen LLC, a Kansas City BBB accredited business.  For more information click here: Kansas City personal injury lawyers

I am a trial lawyer in Kansas City, Missouri. I have spent my career representing people and families that have been seriously injured or killed due to the fault of another. Most of my career has been spent representing individuals and families against some of the largest companies in the world. I take my work very seriously.

I do not expect any business or corporation to look fondly upon my work or me. However misdirected, I have come to live with that slight. However, despite pop impressions of trial lawyers like me, I am not anti-business. I have a big heart and an entrepreneur spirit, and many of my friends own small and medium-sized businesses.

One of those friends recently came to me seeking counsel on obtaining insurance for his new small business.  While business owners are not normal clients for my practice, I can certainly provide insight as to how a personal injury lawyer might look at risks associated with any business venture.

Insurance! Insurance! Insurance! I cannot stress enough the importance of business insurance. Insurance should be a close friend of your business, and with that friendship comes more peace-of-mind.  Adequate insurance not only protects the assets of your business and your family, but it is also the right thing to do. While I suspect your business has no intention of hurting anyone or anything, accidents and mistakes do happen. It would be very risky to operate as though the actions of your company will never result in someone being hurt or killed. The risks are actually much greater than you know. Your company must protect against these potential accidents and mistakes, and your company must get adequate insurance.

In all the excitement of starting and running your own business, thinking about and obtaining insurance is not the most appealing. Budgets can be tight when running a business, but obtaining adequate insurance is absolutely critical to protecting you and your small business. Matters of liability and risk must be serious considerations in the management of your company. But, the good news is that a little insurance goes a long way in providing that protection and peace-of-mind. Once your business is adequately insured, you should be able to rest assured that your business and your family are secure.

This article will discuss some of the most common forms of business insurance that every business should consider.

Types of Business Insurance

By and large, insurance coverage is available for most conceivable risks associated with your business. Some of the most common forms of insurance include (1) general commercial liability policies, (2) product liabitly policies, (3) professional liability policies, (4) commercial property insurance, (5) automotive policies, (6) workers compensation insurance, (7) insurance for home-based businesses, and (8) umbrella / excess insurance.
The cost and amount of coverage needed for you company will depend on the type of company you are operating and your company’s potential exposure to risk. You should certainly discuss your specific business risks with a reputable insurance agent or broker to determine the specifics of your insurance needs.
General Commercial Liability Insurance
General Commercial Liability (“GCL”) insurance is something every single business must obtain. I say “must” obtain, because not having a GCL is not only extraordinarily risky, but potentially un-ethical.
While many believe their business operations would never result in the physical injury or death of another person, it can and does happen. In the unlikely, but tragic potential that the operation of your business results in physical injury to another, you need to be properly insured.  Again, whether you sell coffee, mow lawns, or operate an accounting firm, every single business has some exposure to mistakes and accidents that can hurt people. Your company should be covered by a GCL. This type of insurance provides protections from legal accusations and lawsuits arising from accidents, mistakes, injuries and claims of negligence. This policy protects you and your company against settlements and verdicts against your company as the result of bodily injury, death, property damage, medical expenses, libel, slander, the cost of defending lawsuits.  
The amount of liability coverage that your company needs depends on many factors, much of which center on the risks associated with your type of business. By way of example, a small accounting firm may have much less exposure to physically hurting someone than a coffee shop or concert venue. You should consult an insurance broker or agent in making decisions on the amount of coverage to obtain.
Product Liability Insurance
For those companies that design, manufacture, wholesale, distribute, or retail a product, your business may have “strict liability” for any defects, malfunctions or deficiencies of that product. This is true even if your company had no involvement whatsoever in the design or manufacture of the product and merely acted as the distributor. Product liability insurance protects against financial risks associated with a product defect that causes injury or bodily harm to another. Again, the amount of insurance your company should purchase depends on the risks associated with the products that your company manufactures or sells. A small clothing store would have far less risk than a car dealership.
Professional Liability Insurance
Businesses that provide professional services should consider having professional liability insurance (also known as errors and omissions insurance). Examples include attorney malpractice insurance, medical malpractice insurance, real estate agent insurance, and insurance coverage for professional engineers, architects, brokers, and construction contractors, etc..  This type of liability coverage protects your business against malpractice, errors, and negligence in providing professional services to your customers. Depending on your specific profession, you may be required by law to obtain professional liability insurance. For example, lawyers are required to purchase attorney malpractice insurance as a condition of practicing law.
Commercial Property Insurance
Commercial Property Insurance covers losses and damage of your company’s property due to a wide-variety of events such as fire, smoke, wind and hail storms, etc... The definition of "property" is normally broad, and can include lost income, business interruptions, buildings, computers, company papers and money. You must consult with your insurance agent or broker to more fully understand what the policy ultimately covers. Companies with a lot of physical assets or expensive assets should seriously consider this type of insurance coverage.
Automotive Insurance
If your company operates any motor vehicles, trucks, or commercial vehicles, your company will need automotive insurance. That includes everything from the local flower shop that delivers flowers, the accountant that pays personal visits, and any business that uses a motor vehicle in any aspect of its business. Just like insurance you obtain in the operation of personal motor vehicles, your business will need liability and property-damage coverage for the operation of motor vehicles in your business.  The amount of insurance your company needs will depends on the specifics of your business; but one must consider that risks associated with truck accidents or motor vehicle accidents are very high. Additionally, if your company involves use of a commercial motor vehicle, or transports goods or persons for profit, then your risks are especially high. For commercial motor vehicles, governments have special laws on the amount of insurance your company must carry. 
Workers Compensation Insurance
Depending on your state, your business may be required to carry worker’s compensation insurance for your employees. This insurance covers injuries to your business employees suffered during the course and scope of their employment with your business. You should consult your commercial insurance agent or broker about your state’s requirements regarding workers compensation insurance and assess your needs from that perspective.
Home-Based Business Insurance
Hark! Homeowners' insurance policies do not cover losses of a home-based business. Depending on risks to your business, you may look at adding a rider to your homeowners' policy to cover business risks such as property damage. But, in the end, homeowner policies with riders only go so far in covering home-based businesses, and you will certainly need some or all of the insurance policies discussed herein.

Umbrella / Excess Insurance Policies
I am big fan of umbrella / excess insurance policies. These policies protect against liabilities against your company over-and-above the underlying insurance coverage that your company already possesses. It’s an “umbrella” in the context that it provides over-arching insurance protection for the operations of your business, and it is “excess” in the sense that it provides additional coverage and protection on top of your current levels of protections. By and large, these policies are very cheap, but provide enormous peace-of-mind.

Conclusion

Insurance, insurance, insurance! Your small business needs insurance. Your medium business needs insurance. Your large company needs insurance. Every business needs insurance. That is fact. If your company does not have insurance, you and your company are acting in a very risky manner.  To assess your company’s insurance needs, sit down with an agent, broker or lawyer, and talk to them about your business. Accidents and mistakes will happen. Make sure your business is protected against these accidents and mistakes. It’s not only financially intelligent, but it is the responsible thing to do for your customers, employees and community. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Scam Alert: Liberty Financial Services

A fraudulent company sending out prize-winning notifications has been contacting elderly Kansas City residents. The letters come from a company that claims to be at 8255 Victoria Ave, Los Angeles, CA called Liberty Financial Services.

Enclosed with the letter is a check for $4,650.00 from a Massachusetts company called Griswold Special Care. The company has had its identity stolen by scammers.

The letter states that the recipient has won $355,000. To claim the prize, the recipient is supposed to pay a processing fee of $3,850.00, to be taken from the provided check. Once victims deposit the check and send the thousands of dollars to the requested destination, they will find that the check failed to go through and will be on the hook for transferred funds.

For more information on these types of check scams, visit the FTC's page dedicated to the subject.

Monday, January 27, 2014

New Kansas City BBB Board Members

A new year means it is time to welcome new board members. Here are the Kansas City BBB's six new board members!

Dan C Mason - Scripps Media, KSHB TV
Dan Mason has been the Local Sales Manager since 2003. He earned his Bachelor’s in Journalism from William Allen White School of Journalism, emphasizing on Broadcast Management and Sales. He has held positions of Account Executive and Sales Manager for local news affiliates for the past 23 years.

Christine Krstulic - Vintage Tech, LLC
As General Manger of the award-winning recycling company Vintage Tech, LLC in Riverside, MO, Tina Krstulic she oversees the daily operations to ensure it meets all environmental, local, state and federal regulations and adheres to industry certifications. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1990 with a Bachelor of Arts. She spent her early career with news affiliates where she was nominated for three local Emmys and received the Excellence in Promotions Award from the Missouri Broadcaster’s Association.

Tina married and settled in Kansas City, where she worked in the Public Affairs and Communications Department at Hallmark cards for 15 years before taking over leadership duties at Vintage Tech.


Mark S. Cipolla - Johnson County Tree & Lawn/CSI Flooring
Mark Cipolla started Johnson County Tree & Lawn fresh from college in 1979. In 1986, he began CSI Flooring LLC. Both Companies have operated ever since. Mark’s has been working since he was 14 years old, when he started detailing cars. He is a lifelong Kansas City area resident and currently resides in Lee’s Summit with his wife and three children.

Karl Kramer - McCarthy Auto Group
Karl A. Kramer worked 21 years for General Motors Corp. after graduating from Southern Illinois University, where he earned his bachelor’s in Automotive Technology-Advance Technical Studies. While at GMC, he performed various sales, legal and service functions, including mentoring and guiding the career paths of new hires.

Karl became Communications Director for McCarthy Auto Group in 2012 based out of Kansas City. He manages all advertising, social media, community relations, sponsorships and reputation management. He has been married for 22 years and has two daughters.

Emily Ceruzzi - Global Connections, Inc.
Emily Ceruzzi worked for Global Connections, Inc. for eleven years before being promoted in 2012 and relocating to Kansas City where she became the company's Operations Manager. She is an active member of the travel industry's trade association, the Cooperative Association of Resort Exchangers, whom awarded her the prestigious Richard Gallardo Award in 2011. Before entering the travel industry, Emily was the youngest Workman's Comp Case Manager licensed in Florida. Emily now lives in Lenexa, KS with her husband, two children and golden labrador, Samson.

Susan Perziosa - H&R Block

Susan Preziosa is the Vice President of the Client Service Organization at H&R Block, an organization focused on providing support for H&R Block clients. Prior to joining H&R Block in 2007, Susan held functional and divisional CIO roles at Citigroup and General Electric from 1999-2007. She was a consultant with both KPMG and Ernst and Young, leading technology engagements in the manufacturing, emergency services and horse showing/racing industries. Susan lives in Lenexa, KS with her husband and two children.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How The BBB Helps With Your Internet Marketing & SEO

This blog post was written by Phil Singleton, Founder & CEO of Kansas City Web Design, a Kansas City BBB A+ rated accredited business.  For more information click here: web design kansas city

There are so many reasons why businesses should join the BBB.  Most of these are well-known and self-explanatory.  Yet,  BBB Accreditation provides your business with many online benefits that are often overlooked.

The BBB is a highly trusted website.  The search engines know that BBB members go through an extensive vetting process to become accredited.   The information on your BBB Business Review, including the link back to your company’s website, provides search engines with important information about your business.  While a BBB listing is by no means a ‘magic bullet’ that ensures high search engine rankings, it can help to boost your overall Internet marketing efforts and provide other benefits as well.

Here’s why:

1. BBB is a PR8 Website: The major search engines consider BBB.org to be a ‘high authority’ website.   Google, for example, has a score for websites called PageRank, rated from 0-10 (Google.com is a PR9 website).  Have you ever wondered why some websites appear ahead of yours in search results?  One possibility is that your competitors have more high authority websites linking back to their site.  This is over-simplifying search engine optimization (SEO) because many factors influence your website’s rank – but high quality backlinks are still a very important part. In other words, a link from BBB to your website is a valuable link.

2. BBB Kansas City is a PR5 website:  Local chapters pages of the BBB tend to have a PageRank as well.  The Kansas City BBB has a high page rank in its own right.  Further, the combination of high domain authority with local, highly relevant content makes your link(s) from the BBB valuable.

3.  Your BBB Page Is a Powerful ‘Mini Site’:  The Kansas BBB has strong organic rankings for many types of searches.  If your company takes advantage of all the great features on your BBB profile page, your BBB page can achieve its own organic rankings.  In other words, a prospective Kansas City customer could search for a service and it’s possible that your BBB company page could rank for that search term. 

Further, if you have an SEO program in place, your Internet marketing consultant can drive SEO efforts at your BBB page – extend your keyword reach an overall Internet visibility.

4.  BBB Interactive Seals Increase Conversion Rates: A highly visible, accredited BBB seal is extremely helpful for ‘website conversions’.  A website conversion is the action you would like your prospective customers to take at the end of their website visit.  This could be an online sale, a phone call, filling out a contact for or application, etc.  Your website visitors develop a first impression in a fraction of a second.  After that initial impression, your website has another three seconds to convince visitors to stay and read more.  A highly visible BBB seal helps establish credibility and trust immediately, which in turn will help in increase your website’s conversion rate.

5.  High Quality Outbound Links:  Backlinks pointing to your website are just one SEO ranking factor.  Strategically placed outbound links can contribute to your website’s organic search engine rankings.  This is especially helpful when creating blog posts to your website.  When you are writing on a topic and the text or page contains an outbound link to a relevant, quality website, this link is often perceived by search engines to add value to the page or post.  Thus, linking your seal to your BBB profile page, or linking to a BBB page or blog post may contribute to your organic rankings.

In summary, if you are a BBB Accredited Business, be sure to take advantage of the SEO benefits that your membership can bring.  Make sure your profile is up to date and contains your website information.  Add relevant and optimized content to your member page (logo, images, videos, etc.).  Display the BBB seal prominently on your website.  Hyperlink your seal to your BBB company profile page, and when appropriate or relevant, link other website pages to the Kansas City BBB site and Kansas City BBB blog.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Here Comes [cue music] THE SOCIETY

I haven't laughed this hard in a long time.

The Kansas City BBB is receipt of the stupidest letter in the history of mankind.

It begins with what might as well be a dark and stormy night, the treasure map on the back of the Constitution is lit under the glow of a black light, standing on an easel behind the person who wrote the following letter... Please try to imagine THIS GUY's voice when reading the letter. It makes it even better.

"_____, we are the rich, the famous, the powerful--and the creme de la creme of society; famous sports and movie stars, musicians, billionaires, businessmen, intellectuals, and scientists.

Congratulatons are in order. You have been chosen to join us, _____.

Be proud. Not many get this honor. And those who do, consider this day...the day they received this letter--to be the luckiest day of their life. Let me explain...

[Ok, before I let the letter "explain," I want to point out the bad grammar so far, and also swear that I am not adding any of the bold type. It's in the original letter, I swear. Ok, back to the letter.]

We are the Society. There is a Latin word for us that means "imperial," "powerful," "lordly," and "magisterial." Many consider us the most powerful organization in the world. Period.

Never heard of us? Good! That is That is how we want it [except the "many" who consider them the most powerful organization, obviously. Not them. Just...everyone else]. You will learn our clandestine name in time.

We go to great strides to ensure our anonymity. Very few people besides our members and inductees like you, _____, know of our existence. You should feel pretty special right now. Not many were chosen as a 2013 inductee. But you were. And soon you may reap rewards you never thought attainable.

While the Society is covert, our members are extremely well-known, made up of the rich and famous, the best and the brightest. Almost all of us grew up in humble circumstances. and many of us rose to unimaginable prosperity.

[First off, those in positions of "unimaginable prosperity rarely began in "humble circumstances. Secondly, they keep starting sentences with "But." That's really annoying. Thirdly, doesn't this letter sound like it was authored by a kid in a treehouse, using a spooky voice, shining a flashlight up onto his face? I'm going to skip a few paragraphs to get to my favorite part...]

I wish I could tell you who I am. But under advice from my counsel, I cannot reveal my full name. However, I can tell you that under ordinary circumstances you'd never dream of receiving a letter from me.

[EGO MUCH?]

It goes on from there to generically deny that it's a scam, like all scams do. It reiterates the secrecy and power of its powerful secret society...called The Society. At least the members can't get the name wrong. The letter is ten pages of self-adulation that doesn't ask for money up front. That comes later.

I wish all spam was as spectacularly silly as this. Our jobs of identifying nonsensical offers would be a whole lot easier.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Checking Out Charities for Wise Giving

In the wake of Sandy, Newtown and now Oklahoma, we all have opened our hearts and hands to help as quickly as possible, but there can't be enough emphasis on how important it is to take a little time to do some basic research on a charity before you part with hard earned dollars.  Until we have a perfect society, there will always be scammers.  Further, while most charities are well-intentioned, even amongst that group, there are those best suited for using your donations effectively.  Check out the BBB's tips for disaster giving and check our Wise Giving Alliance list of national charity reports.  A May 22nd KCTV5 story featured the importance of checking out charities:  Give, but give wisely to Oklahoma tornado relief efforts   

The Better Business Bureau of Greater Kansas City's Charity Information Service is expanding to evaluate local charities for BBB accreditation.  This is a voluntary program and upon our requesting participation, some charities choose to move forward, others express interest but do not follow-up, others decline.  However, if we receive an inquiry from the public about a charity, contact the charity and they choose not to provide information, we publish a non-disclosure report.  The more inquiries we receive, the more reports will be available.  http://www.bbb.org/charity-reviews/kansas/

Many donors don't know they can check with the BBB about charities.  We will continue working to inform donors and to encourage charities to use our program as an avenue to prove transparency and accountability.  The BBB does more than list information, we report charity information against a framework of 20 accountability standards.  Reports show what standards are met or not met and why, making giving decisions easier. 

Below are 4 infographics that hopefully make it easier to digest basic principles of the BBB standards of charity accountability.  Click the images to get a better view.  Donors should understand enough to have a holistic view and make fair judgments.

Conflict of interest policies, CEO review and board meeting attendance are a few things BBB governance standards address.  A charity might be in the public eye garnering support or have been around for many years, but may have issues in the boardroom that limit adequate oversight.

The success that a charity has in fulfilling it's mission should be measured regularly.  The BBB does not evaluate the quality and content of assessment, but accredited charities must prove that regular assessment takes place.  Charting Impact is gaining acceptance as a resource for donors and charities in the area of results.  This tool was developed by the BBB Wise Giving AllianceGuidestar and Independent Sector.

                                                                           
"Donors don't support a cause because of its efficiency; they support a cause for the impact that it secures for society - for all of us.  Charting Impact will help to focus nonprofits - and their boards - on how to communicate who they are, what they achieve and how they achieve it, skills that all of us need to develop."
Andrew Watt, president and CEO, Association of Fundraising Professionals 
Financial ratios are important but should not be the deciding factor for making donations.  A charity that spends only 60% on programming instead of 65%, may in fact have phenomenal results.  A charity that spends more than 35% of related contributions on fundraising may be doing more education and advocacy or may be in the earlier stages of operation.

If you are interested in some of the finer points of nonprofit financial accounting, the current issue of Wise Giving Guide delves into joint cost allocation, an accounting term that refers to activities, such as direct mail, that might combine fund raising with another function such as education or advocacy.  The BBB Wise Giving Alliance publishes The Wise Giving Guide three times a year.  The guides summarize the results of the Alliance's latest national charity evaluations and features a cover story, usually with giving tips, on charity accountability issues or other topics of interest to donors.

With tightened economic conditions, charitable appeals are beyond numerous.  The BBB reviews not only the truthfulness of appeals, but the accuracy and availability of charity information, protection of donor information and the sale of products / services that imply a charity will benefit.

The basics of charity review for accreditation at the BBB are governance, effectiveness, finances and fundraising & informational materials.  At the risk of a little sensationalism, it could be said we look at the control, success, dollars and buzz of nonprofits so we can publish reports for the public to check out charities.

According to the Fall / Holiday 2012 Wise Giving Guide "a recent survey by Hope Consulting confirms [that]... with all the sources of information -- information that state agencies, watchdogs, and the charities themselves produce -- only 30% of donors do any research before making a donation."  By continuing to educate and advocate around charity accountability, we hope to help increase that number in Kansas City.  Call 816-421-7800 or e-mail charityreview@kansascity.bbb.org to inquire about charities.




Friday, April 19, 2013

Here A Tuk, There A Tuk, Everywhere A Tuk Tuk


E-I-E-I-O!   This is not about farms or animals, but that children’s song somehow popped into my head when I was thinking about titles.  The parts that sing of the ‘everywhereness’ of the sounds of animals is actually relevant.   In this case the animal is that mode of transportation called a tuk tuk because of the sound emitted by the  2-stroke engines that originally powered them.  During a summer trip, I saw tuk tuks everywhere in the streets of Chiang Mai, Thailand.  With tongue in cheek,  I imagined the sight, sound and use of a tuk tuk here at home.

For transporting passengers in southeast Asian cities, the tuk tuk is king of the road.  It was interesting to watch these things buzz through and around traffic, almost like ants moving effortlessly around obstructions in their path.   Kansas City is not quite the bustling metropolis with congested streets like cities where tuk tuks are everywhere, but we do have passengers that need to be transported from point A to point B.  Might be more cost effective to use some tuk tuks between the airport terminals and remote airport parking lots.  Every time I make that trip, it's on a giant bus with a handful of people.  Oops I forgot about where the luggage would go!  Well, how about this one?   I was recently at a Kemper Arena event and had to park a country mile away.  A cab would have certainly been overkill but it would have been convenient to hop in a tuk tuk and whiz to my car. 

Maybe Congress would allow the postal service to use tuk tuks for mail delivery savings since they mandated six-day delivery instead of cutting to five.   Since it's more economical and the sides are open like the mail trucks, tuk tuks could save money.  Plus, there are only three wheels on a tuk tuk, less tire maintenance.  It might not offer enough storage for all the mail on the route, but that wouldn’t be a problem if they could just leave all the junk mail at the facility!  Most of the mail I get doesn’t even make it into the house, the recycle bin gets it before I go in the door.  Maybe Congress will help the postal service move to electronic delivery of junk mail so I can push the delete button and not have to fill up my recycle bin.  Then I would look forward to getting important mail and packages from my tuk tuk driving mailman.    

Trips to the grocery store or other neighborhood destinations could be made in a tuk tuk.  They are much more fuel efficient than my SUV.  After shopping at the night market in Thailand, three of us crawled in the back bench seat for the short trip to our hotel.  For a minute I thought I was on an amusement park ride, but we arrived safely and none of our Thai bargains got flung onto the street.  Of course if I had to drive myself in a tuk tuk, it just wouldn’t be the same.   Perhaps personal ownership of a tuk tuk wouldn’t be that practical, but as a delivery vehicle, the uses are endless.

Tuk tuks are used on golf courses in many countries.  Don't know if it could become a common sight here.   Couldn't be the sputtering tuk tuk like the one I was in.  That just wouldn't work on a golf course.   Serious golf is very quiet and I’ve known a golfer to be thrown off just by the rattling of a snack being opened.  But for hackers, we might enjoy the novelty of driving a tuk tuk from hole to hole, or even seeing colorful, decorated ones carrying refreshment on the back nine!

And now the BBB angle.   Yes, some tuk tuk drivers are working a scam!  According to many travel advisory websites, Bangkok tuk tuk scams are quite the menace.  I don’t know if we get many complaints on cabbies or local transportation companies or not, but in Thailand, consumer protection is not like what we know here and there certainly is no BBB equivalent.   Without a doubt, it’s tuk tuk traveler beware!

It’s not totally absurd to think about how tuk tuks could be used in KC.  Tuk Tuk North America was granted DOT and EPA approval in 2009.   In 2012, a Charleston, SC local entrepreneur had an idea for their use, but city officials were against it.  The idea was also posed as food for thought in a post of the Economy League of Philadelphia.   We don’t have the climate of Charleston so a tuk tuk ride in January could be breezy, but it wouldn't be much  different than a horse drawn carriage on the Plaza as far as feeling winter temperatures.   Also, we don't have the tourist draw of Philadelphia, though I'm sure some would argue that point, but we do have tourists.   However, with recent voter approval of funding, our newest mode of transportation will be streetcars on Main Street downtown.   So it will be a while before tuk tuks are everywhere in Kansas City, but who knows when you might see one here or there.