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Monthly Archives

November 2013


By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

When Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and other excellent books, spent some time among West Point cadets, he came away with additional insights into the characteristics of successful leaders. Based on this experience, he wrote an article in Inc. magazine that describes a three-part formula for successful leadership in the workplace. Here’s an excerpt:

      “If you want to build a culture of engaged leaders and a great place to work, you need to spend time thinking about three things. 1) Service to a cause or purpose we are passionately dedicated to and are willing to suffer and sacrifice for; 2 Challenge and growth – what huge and audacious challenges should we give people that will push them hard and make them grow?; and 3) Communal success – what can we do to reinforce the idea that we succeed only by helping each other?”

Collins has observed these principles at work in in a number of great companies he studied during their best years – including IBM, Apple, Johnson & Johnson, Southwest Airlines, and Federal Express.

Not a bad way to look at the leadership in your company!


By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

Work is as meaningful as we decide to make it, no matter the business we’re in. If your company has low-wage workers, follow these guidelines to hire – and retain –quality employees:

  1. See the lifetime value of a worker in the same way that marketers evaluate the lifetime value of a client.
  2. Brand your company as something more than people who clean toilets, serve burgers, or wash cars.
  3. Consider paying a few bucks more than the competition. As the saying goes “when you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” In-N-Out Hamburger has exploited this insight for more than 30 years with great success .Their hiring page, www.in-n-out.com/employment/restaurant.aspx, allows them to hire the top 10%.
  4. Attend job fairs and work with community agencies, colleges, churches, and so forth.
  5. Advertise online on Craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.
  6. Put some juice into employee referral programs, and use referral cheat sheets – one page documents that describe the opportunity and provide contact information.
  7. Consider an online application process, including kiosks for people who don’t have convenient computer access.
  8. Keep your look and logos fresh and see if you can make them “cool” or “green. Talk about how you provide environmentally advanced or nutritionally satisfying products (Chipotle does this well. See their hiring page at http://careers.chipotle.com/en-us/careers/get_rolling/get_rolling.aspx). Worked for me
  9. Focus on the fact that yours is a steady industry, with room for advancement; encourage your current employees sell the career opportunities. Again, Chipotle does this well.
  10. Show that you care by offering workers cool soccer shirts, English classes, company events, etc.
  11. Have an employee page on your website with video, etc.
  12. Stress the advantages that you offer employees, such as flexible work schedules, paid time off, health insurance, retirement plans, car allowances, and so forth.


By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

In a case that illustrates how a supervisor’s ill-advised comments can come back to haunt a company, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently revived a discrimination case by an older employee who had been laid off.

In Sharp v. Aker Plant Services Group, Inc., the plaintiff accused his employer of age discrimination because it terminated him while retaining a younger worker whom he had trained. His supervisor allegedly told him that the company had a succession plan “where you bring in younger people, train them, so that when the older people leave, you’ll have younger people.” The plaintiff also had a recording on which the supervisor said: “We’re all of the same age and we’re all going to retire; I had the opportunity to bring the next generation in, so that’s what we decided to do.”

A lower court held that these statements expressed only a concern for maximizing the firm’s return on investment by retaining employees who would stay with it longer. The appeals court disagreed, arguing that this concern about employees’ potential longevity with the company could be considered a smoke screen for direct evidence of age bias. What’s more, although the supervisor stated that the younger employee was a better performer, he had written a strong letter of recommendation for the plaintiff.

The moral of the story: Keep a close eye on termination decisions that involve older employees.

Article courtesy of Worklaw® Network firm Shawe Rosenthal (www.shawe.com).


By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

The college football world was rocked at the beginning of this season by the possibility that its shining star, Johnny Football” Manziel, last year’s freshman Heisman trophy winner, might have to sit out the season because he violated NCAA guidelines by selling his autograph. Luckily for everyone, the issue has gone away – at least for now. Although one can debate all day long whether college athletes should be able to sell their autographs, the rules currently prohibit them from doing so. I’m sure Mr. Manziel knew this, but it appears he went for it anyway. In the process, he came across as both arrogant and somehow above it all. (Because he comes from a well off family, money is not an issue).

What Mr. Manziel did not consider was the probable effect of his actions on the involved stakeholders: his team, school, the conference, television networks, fans, family, etc. Unfortunately, I’ve seen the same thing happen in the workplace all too often. Whether you call it hubris, stealth, harassment or some other name, these “bad actors” seldom consider the impact of their misconduct on the stakeholders –coworkers, managers, the company’s bottom line, and their own family members – and they can be some of your top performers, too! In today’s high-tech world, nobody can hide from scrutiny. The idea of getting away with something is rapidly fading away. One stupid statement, a thoughtless social media post, or a single questionable act can ruin a career or brand in an instant. There will always be executives and employees who try to skirt the rules. You must be clear about what you stand for and to what degree you will enforce your standards, no matter who the culprit might be.

To help deal with potential bad actors, I’d recommend that you:

  • Hire for character, not just for skills.
  • Find out about any questionable acts in peoples’ pasts.
  • Put them through ethical scenarios and see how they respond.
  • Monitor their conduct where practical.
  • Don’t tempt people unnecessarily.
  • Never trust blindly – keep checks and balances in place.
  • Engage in swift damage control.


By Business Protection Bulletin | No Comments

If a windstorm, fire, or other catastrophe ravages your building, property insurance will pay for repair and rebuilding, up to the amount of coverage. But what about the cost of clearing and disposing of debris before reconstruction begins?

Your property policy provides a percentage of total coverage, often 25% of the direct loss plus 25% of the deductible,– for removing debris after a covered loss. For example, with a loss of $100,000 and a $2,000 deductible, the removal payment would come to $25,500: 25% of $51,000. If this doesn’t cover the cost, or the amount of the loss plus debris removal is higher than your coverage, the policy will pay another $10,000 per occurrence to dispose of debris. If you need additional coverage, some insurance companies will provide it through a policy endorsement, free, or for a nominal premium surcharge.Depending on the cause of loss and the degree of damage, these costs can be significant. For example, a fire might consume much of the debris, making removal largely a clean-up expense. On the other hand, if a hurricane or tornado caused the same amount of damage, clean-up might mean locating and cleaning up debris that the storm carried away from the site as well as clearing rubble from the location itself. What’s more, disposal of hazardous materials (such as asbestos tiles and chemicals) will be far more complex,– and costly,– than simply using a backhoe and dump trucks to haul the stuff off to the nearest landfill.

To learn more about this valuable coverage, just contact our agency. As always, we’re here to help you protect your business.


By Business Protection Bulletin | No Comments

An industry seminar on fraud risk, prevention and response, found 778 internal fraud cases in 2012 (more than two a day!). These scams included fake billing, corruption, and expense reimbursement.

Although the companies affected suffered minimal losses in more than half of these cases, their headaches came from private civil claims, potential government investigations, criminal prosecutions, and bad publicity.

Fraud can be uncovered by everything from employee tip-offs and management reviews to internal audits and even “gut” feelings by an experienced observer.

If you’ve been scammed from the inside, start with a prompt and thorough internal –investigation. Gather the facts, preserve evidence, assess legal repercussions, and take corrective action – before an outside authority does. (Being the first to report the incident to the government can take the sting out of an official probe).

To correct the situation you should: 1) make amends to the victims; 2) revamp corporate-compliance programs and 3) strengthen internal controls. Make sure that these actions are tangible and specific.

Consider offering substantial financial incentives to employees who might suspect that something fishy is going on, but may not want to get involved.

Lastly, , insurance can help protect your business from the loss of money, securities, and inventory resulting from employee dishonesty. For example, Fidelity and Crime coverage usually includes property theft, losses due to forgery, and electronic wire transfer fraud.

Your insurance program should include a cyber policy. A recent court decision expands coverage of cyber losses under fidelity bonds. Damian Brew, managing director of Marsh’s FINPRO practice warns, “Having insurance coverage without cyber insurance is like playing hockey without a goalie.”

Our business insurance professionals would be happy to review your internal fraud-control program. Just give us a call.


By Business Protection Bulletin | No Comments

The global market for mobile application technology should top $25 billion by 2015. If you’d like to get a piece of this action by developing and marketing an app, experts recommend that you take these steps:

  1. Follow the rules. Starting any business requires following a series of steps (from registration to hiring employees). These 10 Steps to Starting a Business will help you check all the necessary boxes.
  2. Expect to be monitored. Apps come under intense scrutiny. Negative reviews from consumers and experts, complaints, and horror stories can be fatal. Although regulation of the mobile market is in its infancy, online apps fall under the scrutiny of truth-in-advertising and data privacy laws regulated by the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection.
  3. Disclose all charges up front. Developing a custom app can be costly. If you try to recoup some of this investment by charging users, state these fees clearly and completely. Full disclosure is essential if children will use your app. If parents learn their child has racked-up unauthorized fees because your policy wasn’t clear, you’ll face a customer relations nightmare.
  4. Develop and communicate your privacy policy. The Future of Privacy Forum Application Developer Responsible Data Use Project found that 22 of the 30 top apps lacked any such policy. Many privacy policy generators available online give app developers options for customizing their policies. If your target market includes children, check the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which governs information that online businesses (and mobile apps) collect about children 13 years or younger.
  5. Consult a lawyer. Because every app start-up is unique, get advice from an attorney who specializes in privacy and consumer protection law.

Good luck!


By Business Protection Bulletin | No Comments

The holidays are almost upon us and alcohol will be flowing at company parties throughout the land. Beware! If an employee or guest gets inebriated at a social function sponsored by your business and then injures another person, you could be held liable.

Consider this scenario: After polishing off four eggnogs in an hour at the company’s Christmas party, one of your workers toddles off to his car. The employee almost makes it home when he runs a red light and T-bones a car. The car is damaged and injures the driver. The driver then sues your business for negligence in allowing the employee to drive home although he was clearly “under the influence” at the company party.

What’s more, under state and local “social host” laws, your business might face a fine or even imprisonment for continuing to serve alcohol to an adult who is legally drunk.

Under your comprehensive general liability policy is a clause for host liquor liability. The insurance company will pick up the tab for property damage and bodily injuries, up to “each occurrence” or “general aggregate” limits for the CGL. This coverage will also pay for court costs, legal fees, and other expenses – and these payments will not apply to the limits.

Be sure not to confuse host liquor liability insurance with Liquor Liability coverage, which protects businesses that manufacture, serve, or sell alcoholic beverages (such as liquor stores, bars, and taverns) against claims for injuries caused by intoxicated customers. If you’re in one of these businesses, you’ll need both types of policy.

To learn more, feel free to get in touch with our agency at any time.


By Construction Insurance Bulletin | No Comments

Key personnel tend to be one to two people that your company heavily relies on. These employees can be anyone from a partner to an operations manager or a site foreman. The contribution of these key personnel is essential to run your company. If one of the key personnel dies, where would you find the financial resources to keep your business up and running until you replace them?

The answer is a key person life insurance policy, which your business will receive all or most of the proceeds. This term may also apply to other coverages used for business continuation purposes, including 1) buy-sell or shareholder insurance which will reimburse partners or investors; 2) debt protection; 3) and revenue protection. You can use the policy benefit to replace lost income due to the unavailability of the key person and recruit, develop, and train a replacement.

The policy’s cash value might be available to your business through a withdrawal or loan, if needed. You could also split the premium and death benefit between the firm and the spouse of the key person to ensure that she or he receives replacement for the person’s economic value to the family. These premiums are not tax deductible.

What’s more, this coverage provides a financial asset that enhances the creditworthiness of your company for commercial lending (by ensuring that the business will remain in business if the key person is out of the picture).

When reviewing packages, get quotes on different amounts,anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000. Take into account what your budget allows versus how much the business would need to survive while you’re bringing a new person up to speed.

Our agency stands ready to advise you at any time.