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Monthly Archives

November 2016

7 Things to Consider as You Plan Evacuations

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1611-rr-1Evacuation plans are essential for your small business as you protect your staff, customers and visitors. Consider seven factors as you plan your evacuations. With this checklist, everyone can exit peacefully and safely.

    1. List Conditions that may Force an Evacuation

      Weather, fire, terrorism, toxic material release, workplace violence, civil disturbances and other conditions may force you to evacuate your business. When you make a list of conditions that could affect you, you can prepare comprehensive evacuation plans. For example, your evacuation strategy may include staying indoors during a civil disturbance, but you’ll want to go outside if a fire breaks out.

    1. Create a Clear Chain of Command

      Chaos will rule if you have several people in charge of an evacuation. Create a clear chain of command when you assign wardens. Ideally, you’ll have one warden per 20 people, and you’ll assign one warden to be in charge as the highest-ranking responder. He or she will assume command, make the call to evacuate and report to the onsite emergency coordinator.

    1. Post Specific Evacuation Procedures

      Every employee should know the evacuation procedure from anywhere in the building. A floor diagram map will designate exit routes, mark emergency equipment locations and direct staff to the assembly location. Additionally, exits must be clearly marked, well lit, wide enough accommodate employees and unobstructed at all times.

    1. Plan for Visitors

      If you welcome customers, clients or other visitors into your building, you must make sure they can get out safely during an emergency. Assign one person in each department to assist visitors. Also, make sure that visitors with special needs or disabilities can exit safely.

    1. Designate the Last Employees Out

      The department wardens will usually take on the role of last employees out. They shut down critical operations and know how to turn off the electricity or gas. They also check office spaces, bathrooms and other areas to ensure everyone has evacuated, understand when to evacuate themselves and close the fire doors when everyone has left the building.

    1. Account for Employees

      To make sure all employees evacuated safely, plan a way to account for everyone. Designate areas indoors and outdoors where employees will meet. These spaces must have adequate room for everyone. Be prepared to take a head count, too, since it enables emergency personnel during rescue attempts.

    1. Comply With OSHA Emergency Standards

      Every section of your emergency evacuation plan must comply with OSHA standards. Review your emergency plan regularly to ensure it remains current as your business grows.

Safety comes first in your small business. With these seven considerations, your evacuation plan will help your employees and visitors stay safe.

Ways Awful Customers Put Your Business at Risk

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1611-rr-2-1Many small businesses operate by the quote, “The customer is always right.” That mantra doesn’t apply to awful customers, though. They put your business at risk in several ways.

Off-Color Jokes or Sexual Harassment

Any kind of off-color jokes or sexual harassment could result in lawsuits by your staff or other customers. You can’t afford to tolerate customers who behave in this manner.

  • Ask the customer to refrain from this behavior.
  • Talk to your lawyer about ending any ongoing contracts with customers who continue this behavior.

Critical

Critical customers may consistently point out defects or faults. They may also post negative reviews, belittle, call names or harass. These customers decrease morale quickly, could offend other customers and may cause you to lose business.

  • Contact critical customers to find out the exact problem then offer a solution.
  • Learn from the criticism if it applies and ignore it if it doesn’t.

Rude

Rude customers may throw fits because they’re having a bad day or want to get a better price. They actually decrease staff morale, which affects productivity, and they can make other customers uncomfortable and cause you to lose sales.

  • Lower your voice and remain calm.
  • Talk to rude customers in a private area.

Want Free Work

You wouldn’t give customers money from your pocket just for walking in the door. However, giving away your services or products for free essentially allows customers to rob you.

  • Always set a fair rate for your services.
  • Value yourself enough to get paid what you’re worth.
  • If a customer wants extra services beyond the current contract, ask for more money.

Pay Late

Every time a customer pays late, you waste valuable time doing collections when you could be finding new customers or serving current customers who do pay on time.

  • Always ask your customers to pay upfront.
  • If you do extend credit, be sure it’s only partial credit.
  • Don’t deliver the final service until payment is received in full.

Unresponsive

Your customers expect you to communicate regularly, and they should also return messages quickly and give you the information you need to do your job.

  • Offer a grace period in case of an emergency or unexpected life event.
  • Reach out via multiple methods, including phone, email and text.
  • Move on if the customer remains unresponsive.

Demand Your Full Attention

Customers who demand your full attention or micromanage their orders leave you little time to cultivate new customers, nurture current customers or diversify your business. When the big customer moves his account elsewhere, you face lay-offs or even bankruptcy.

  • Set boundaries that outline how much time you will give to customers.
  • Remember to work all angles of your business.

Your small business relies on customers for its success, but you do not need to tolerate awful customers who put your business at risk. Handle those customers in a way that protects your business.

Protect Your Website From Hackers With 13 Tips

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1611-rr-3-1Security in your small business must include your website. Otherwise, hackers can gain valuable information about your finances, customers and employees and put you at legal risk. Since hackers target businesses of all sizes, use 13 tips to protect your website.

    1. Complete software updates. They seem insignificant, but they keep your security updated. Set your system to update automatically and prevent you from overlooking this important security measure.
    1. Boost password security. Your password can include a variety of letter, numbers and symbols, but the most secure passwords are long phrases such as “ilikebananasandwiches”. Never write down passwords, and assign a different password to every user and account. Remind staff to change passwords frequently, too.
    1. Limit access. Everyone should not be able to access all accounts. Establish limited access as you protect accounts.
    1. Change the default database prefix. Typically, the database prefix is wp6_. Change it to something random.
    1. Install a web application firewall (WAF). Whether your WAF is software or hardware based, it reads all the data that passes between your website server and data connection to ensure it’s safe. For a small monthly subscription fee, you can also access a cloud-based WAF that blocks hacking attempts and filters spam and malicious bots.
    1. Install security applications. Several free and paid security applications slow down hackers. Some may even hide your website’s CMS, which prevents automatic hackers from accessing your site.
    1. Limit file uploads. They may contain bugs that give hackers access to your data. Instead, store files outside the root directory and require a script to access them.
    1. Use SSL. It’s encrypted and protects personal information as it passes from your website to your database.
    1. Serve your website over HTTPS. It encrypts traffic and prevents hackers from eavesdropping or intercepting passwords and other information.
    1. Never email user names or passwords. Email is not secure, and hackers can access email and all the information they need to get into secure accounts.
    1. Limit login attempts. If a user attempts to login more than three times, for example, set the system to lock down. Include password resets in this limit as you deter hackers.
    1. Scan every device for malware. All the devices plugged into the network should be scanned for malware when they’re attached to the network. Perform periodic scans as you increase security, too.
    1. Back-up frequently. Multiple times a day, your data should be backed up on-site and off-site in multiple locations.

Hackers can destroy your business as they steal data, ruin your reputation and put you at legal risk. Protect your website and reduce your risk of hackers with these 13 tips.

How Your Small Business Can Ruin Your Personal Credit

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1611-rr-4-1Your small business expenses and personal expenses should stay separate. However, it’s easy to spend business funds for personal expenses, which can affect your personal credit. Understand the business credit mistakes that put your personal credit at risk.

Start or Fund Your Business With Personal Credit Cards

To get your business of the ground, you may use your personal credit cards. Whether you charge a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, this financing option could cost you.

Open a business credit card to get your business running. As an alternative, ask for trade credit where your suppliers agree to give you 30 days to pay off the balance of your bill. These steps separate your personal and business finances and can assist you in getting financing in the future with a favorable interest rate and terms.

Use Personal Guarantees

Business financing or credit is usually only available if you give a personal guarantee that you’ll repay the money. Those guarantees will show up on your personal credit reports, though, and could affect your credit score and your ability to get credit in the future.

Make an honest effort to never borrow more than you can repay. Don’t default on business loans, either. Wise financial management now assists you in obtaining future funding.

Make Late Payments

Sometimes, you can’t pay bills until your customers pay, and if they pay late, then you pay late. Other times, you may forget to make a payment. One late payment might not be a big deal, but two can negatively impact your personal credit.

Set aside enough money to pay several months of bills on time. Also, use automatic bill pay when possible and have the payment draft from your business bank account a few days before the due date. Stay current on all payments as you protect your credit.

Max Out Your Business Credit Cards

Certain business credit card providers will report your payment history to consumer credit agencies. Late payments and maxing out your credit card will have a negative effect on your credit score.

Always leave a cushion on your credit cards and resist the temptation to charge your full credit amount. Consider making early payments and paying twice a month as you lower your balance, too. You may also want to use a business credit card that does not report to personal consumer credit agencies.

Your small business can ruin your personal credit. Reduce your risk by separating your accounts. The way you structure your business can protect you, too. Talk to your financial advisor for more information on how to protect your personal credit as you build your small business.

Home Heater Safety Tips

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

1611-pp-4Cooler temperatures have arrived, and it’s time to turn on your heater. Be safe and protect your family and home with these home heater safety tips

Use Only Approved Heating Sources

Certain heating sources should never be used to keep your family and home warm. They include the stove or candles. Your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or fire increases when you use a non-approved heating source.

Install Heaters Properly

It’s easy to buy a stationary space heater, fireplace or wood stove. Those heating sources should be professionally installed, though, to ensure they conform to the manufacturer’s instructions and local codes. Invest the necessary time and money to ensure your family and home stay safe and warm.

Use the Right Fuel

Different types of heaters, whether they’re fireplaces, space heaters or pellet stoves, use different fuels. Be sure you’re using the right fuel for your heater. Find the details in the heater’s instruction manual or on the manufacturer’s website.

Inspect and Clean Your Heater Annually

While it’s easy to flip a switch or light a match and start your heater in the fall, you want to make sure it’s operational. Hire a qualified professional to inspect and clean your chimney and heating equipment before you turn it on. They can make sure your heater is safe to operate all season.

Turn Off the Heater

You may think that leaving the heater turned on is a good idea as you keep your home warm. However, fires can start and rapidly spread if you leave your fireplace or space heater unattended. Always extinguish fireplaces properly and turn off space heaters before you leave the house or go to bed.

Keep Your Distance

Your furnace, fireplace, space heater or other home heater keeps you and your family warm, but they’re also fire hazards. Anything flammable should be kept at least three feet away from your heater. Flammable object can include curtains, clothing, upholstery and wood.

Enforce a Kid-Free Zone

Kids sometimes start playing and forget to follow safety rules. Implement and enforce a three-foot kid-free zone around the fireplace or space heater. It protects your kids from getting burned.

Use Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Despite your safety precautions, heaters can malfunction. Buy and install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home. Test the detectors every month and replace the batteries every six months, too.

Update Your Home Insurance

As you prepare your heater for another season, make sure your home insurance is up-to-date. It can ensure your home and possessions are covered if there’s a heater accident.

The cooler temperatures outside mean you’re ready to turn on your home heater. Follow these tips as you stay safe.

Driving Etiquette Tips

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

1611-pp-3In your vehicle, it’s easy to feel like you’re secluded from everyone else on the road. Your vehicle is one of many on the road, though. Above all else, you must always prioritize safety and use these etiquette tips.

Obey the Rules of the Road

Every rule of the road applies to you, so obey the speed limit and stop, yield and merge signs. Your agenda is never more important than safety.

Be Considerate

You share the road with other drivers, bikers and walkers, so be considerate. Give other drivers the right of way, let other drivers pass if they’re in a hurry and yield to pedestrians. Don’t demand your own way or give into road rage. Show consideration and make the commute safer for everyone.

Take Turns

When the road narrows from two lanes to one or traffic slows for an accident, take turns merging. It’s better to let someone go in front of you than to cause a pileup.

Turn on Your Headlights

Your vehicle’s headlights allow you to see clearly as you drive at night or in certain types of weather. Remember to turn off your high beams when another car approaches. Also, don’t use your headlights as aggression toward another driver.

Use Your Horn Sparingly

The horn in your vehicle is designed to alert other drivers of dangers. In certain occasions, it’s appropriate to honk your horn, but use it sparingly and remember that laying on the horn is poor manners and a sign of aggression.

It’s appropriate to lightly beep your horn when:

  • The light turns green and the driver in front of you is distracted
  • It’s the other driver’s turn at the intersection
  • Another driver is ready to cut you off because you’re in their blind spot

Do not use your horn to:

  • Scold drivers who are speeding or being unsafe in other ways
  • Vent your frustrations

Respect Emergency Vehicles

Ambulances, fire trucks and police cars also use the roadways. When you see flashing lights, slow down and pull off to the right side of the road. Wait for the emergency vehicle to pass and then merge back into traffic.

Pull Off the Road if You’re in a Fender Bender

Minor fender benders do occasionally happen. Instead of stopping your vehicle in the middle of the road, pull off the road safely to assess damage and discuss the next step, which may include exchanging insurance information, with the other driver.

Report Emergencies

When you pass a vehicle with its emergency lights on, stop and offer assistance. You can also call 911.

Etiquette goes a long way toward maintaining roadway safety for everyone. Share the road, remain calm and use your manners as you drive safely.

Gun Safety for Kids

By Personal Perspective | No Comments

1611-pp-2Gun safety is essential for adults and kids whether you own a gun or not and if you live in the city, suburbs or rural farm. You owe it to your kids to teach them gun safety tips now.

Guns Are Not Toys

In video games and cartoons, characters shoot other people and no one dies. However, in real life, guns can permanent injury or kill someone. If you want to teach your child how to use a gun properly, you have that right, but clarify that guns are not toys.

Under no circumstances should you or your child play or joke around with a real gun. It only takes one incident with a bullet in the chamber for your kids to kill themselves or someone else.

Violence is Not Okay

Kids do get bullied, argue with friends and struggle with interpersonal challenges. Violence and guns should never be used to solve problems.

As an adult, never threaten to shoot someone. Teach your kids to follow your example, too. Threats or violent acts could result in police action.

Keep Guns Locked Up

Many times, guns are fired by accident. It’s important for your kids to never access guns stored in your home.

Whether you hunt, have a gun for protection or own a gun collection, always keep your gun in a locked cabinet. Project ChildSafe offers free gun locks, and you can pick one up at your local police station. The ammunition should be locked in a separate cabinet. Keep the key with you at all times as you protect your children.

Teach Kids How to Respond to Guns

You may not have guns in your home, but your kids may visit family members or friends who have guns. Always check with the parents of your child’s friends to see if they have guns in the home. Also, teach your kids how to respond to guns in a safe and responsible way.

If they see a gun lying somewhere, they should:

  • Stop what they’re doing
  • Don’t touch the gun
  • Leave the room or area
  • Tell an adult immediately

If a friend offers to show then a gun, they should:

  • Say no
  • Leave the room
  • Tell an adult in the home or call their parents

If someone threatens to bring a gun to school, they should:

  • Report any suspicious activities or conversations
  • Tell the principal, teacher, guidance counselor or parent about the incident
  • Understand that telling on someone is the safe and right thing to do

Gun safety is important. Use these tips as you ensure your kids know the right way to handle situations where guns are involved.

Insurance for Destination Weddings

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1611-pp-1Your wedding only happens once in a lifetime. Make it special when you tie the knot in an exotic destination. Whether you choose the beach, mountains or cathedral, understand what insurance coverage you need for your destination wedding.

Cancellation or Rearrangement

Despite all your planning, you can’t always control every detail of your wedding event. Weather, travel delays or other unforeseen circumstances may affect your day. If you have to cancel or rearrange your wedding, insurance can cover any related costs.

Travel

Whether you arrive to your destination wedding via airplane, boat or car, travel is unpredictable. Insure your wedding travel and receive financial reimbursement if your wedding travel plans are disrupted.

Wedding Service Providers

A dozen or more wedding service providers, including the venue, florist, caterer, musicians and limo company, assist you in making your wedding one to remember. Because you schedule your wedding months in advance, there’s always a chance that one of the vendors may go out of business before your special day. Purchase insurance that will cover any irrecoverable deposits and the costs of making alternative arrangements for other suppliers.

Flowers, Food, Cake and Other Details

Wedding details, including the flowers, food and cake, add to the ambiance of your special day. Unfortunately, accidents happen. If the cake falls on its way to the venue or someone gets sick on the shrimp, insurance will cover the related expenses.

Photographer and Videographer

Recording your special day is essential. If your photographer or videographer doesn’t show up or if the footage is compromised, insurance can reimburse you. It may also pay for the photos or video to be reshot.

Wedding Attire

You spend hours finding the perfect dress, and even though you protect it, it can be ruined, especially if you travel overseas with it. Insurance will cover the cost of your dress, tuxedos and other wedding attire if it’s damaged and pay for you to rent new attire.

Rings

The rings you and your fiancé pick are special. Insuring them will give you peace of mind since you will get your money back if the rings are lost, damaged or stolen.

Gifts

At some destination weddings, guests give the bride and groom special honeymoon gifts, such as a spa treatment, sightseeing trip or other fun event. However, if your guests bring gifts and they are stolen, lost or damaged, insurance will reimburse you.

As you plan your destination wedding, you make sure all the details are perfect. Insure your wedding, too, so that you can concentrate on planning and enjoying your special day no matter what happens. Discuss your wedding plans with your insurance agent as you buy the coverage you need.

Pros and Cons of Mortgage Life Insurance

By Life and Health | No Comments

1611-lh-4Life insurance provides financial assistance for your family after your death. With it, your family can pay your final expenses, repay debt or save for college. It’s also beneficial for repaying the mortgage, which allows your family to stay in their home. As an alternative to a term or whole life insurance policy, consider mortgage life insurance that’s designed specifically to pay off your mortgage. Learn the pros and cons of this life insurance option before you buy it.

What is Mortgage Life Insurance?

Mortgage life insurance pays off your mortgage if you die, become disabled or contract a life-altering disease that prohibits you from earning a living. When you fill out your mortgage paperwork, you will be given the option to apply for mortgage life insurance. If you decline it, you’ll have to sign several waivers that verify you are opting out of the coverage.

Advantages of Mortgage Life Insurance

As with all insurance policies, you will find several advantages of mortgage life insurance.

    1. You give your family peace of mind when you purchase mortgage life insurance. With it, they won’t have to struggle to pay for their home.
    1. No medical exam is required. Preexisting medical conditions may prevent you from qualifying for traditional life insurance, but you can buy mortgage life insurance regardless of your health.
    1. This coverage kicks in even if you don’t die. Traditional life insurance policies only mature when the policy holder dies. Mortgage life insurance is activated when you suffer an illness or injury that prevents you from working.

Disadvantages of Mortgage Life Insurance

There are advantages to mortgage life insurance, but weigh the cons, too, as you make an informed decision for you and your family.

    1. A term life insurance policy may be cheaper than mortgage life insurance. Research your life insurance products and options as you make the best choice for you.
    1. Mortgage life insurance covers only the mortgage. Your family cannot decide how to use the money, which they may need repay debt, afford college or cover everyday living expenses.
    1. The benefit decreases over time as you pay off your mortgage. Because mortgage life insurance pays off your mortgage, you won’t need as much coverage as your mortgage principle decreases. A traditional life insurance policy keeps its value for the term of the policy or as long as you pay the premiums.

With this list of pros and cons, you can decide if mortgage life insurance is a wise investment for your family. Talk to your insurance agent about your family’s financial needs as you choose the best life insurance option for you.

Reasons to Buy Life Insurance For Your Kids

By Life and Health | No Comments

1611-lh-3As a parent, you do everything possible to care for your kids. Life insurance can be one product that provides for their future. Consider several reasons why you should buy life insurance for your children.

Ensure Future Insurability

Many life insurance policies require applicants to take a medical exam. Medical conditions can prevent you from buying a life insurance policy, or they can cause your premiums to rise.

By purchasing life insurance for your kids when they are young and healthy, you give them valuable coverage they may not be eligible for later in life. Even if they develop a medical condition that reduces their eligibility for life insurance when they are older, they will already have a policy in place.

Build a Financial Portfolio

You have a financial portfolio that may include insurance, investments and savings. Help your kids develop a strong financial portfolio, too, with life insurance.

Whole life insurance builds cash value at a predicable rate. When your kids are older, they can access the money to buy a home or fund their retirement. It’s an investment tool that greatly benefits your children in the future and is a valuable part of their financial portfolio.

Save for College

The average public college costs $15,640 per year, and private nonprofit colleges cost $40,614 annually. Life insurance can help your child afford their college education.

A whole life policy grows in cash value. If you purchase a policy when your child is young, it will grow at a predictable rate. Your college-age child can then borrow from the policy’s cash value and use the money for tuition, room or board as they earn a college degree.

Cover Funeral Expenses

No parent wants to plan for a child’s death. However, consider the possibility and how it would affect you. You may not have adequate financial resources to cover a funeral, and you don’t want to worry about raising funds when you are grieving.

Life insurance pays for funeral expenses. It relieves that financial burden, gives you peace of mind and is available whether your child dies young or lives a long life.

Life insurance is a valuable asset for you, and it’s also important for your kids. Be sure you have a life insurance policy and then buy life insurance for your kids, too. Your insurance agent can discuss the various options and provide additional details that help you choose the best coverage for your kids.