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Most Affordable Rates Always Providing Good Advice Most Comprehensive and Affordable Rates Personalized Attention

Most Affordable Rates

“For all your business insurance needs, I highly recommend The Carmoon Group. They provide a comprehensive yet easy to understand coverage with the most affordable rates. – very professional and timely in service…” ~ Moira Dean, Manhattan, NY

Always Providing Good Advice

“We decided to find a new insurance that specialised within our industry. We have now been clients of The Carmoon Group. I personally would describe their service as being prompt, always providing good advice and displaying our insurances in a manner that is easy to understand. I would definitely recommend The Carmoon Group.” ~ Bradley Morris, Trenton, New Jersey

Most Comprehensive and Affordable Rates

“The Carmoon Group was recommended to us by a business colleague and we have been very pleased with its service. They have been responsible for all our Liability Insurance. I have always found The Carmoon Group to be professional and helpful and would definitely recommend them – they have the most comprehensive and affordable rates in the whole state of New York.” ~ - Matthew Brightman, New York, NY

Personalized Attention

“It has been pleasant to get such personalized attention, especially with my account being such a small policy. I am confident that The Carmoon Group is looking out for me, finding the lowest possible cost on my policy, while providing excellent recommendations to be sure I have the coverage I need.” ~ M. Bailey-Bates, M.D., Annapolis, Maryland

Carmoon Ltd. is the industry leader in providing customized insurance solutions for businesses, homeowners and families in the U.S. Our professional staff has one objective – to provide you with outstanding service and the broadest coverage available at the best possible price. Our highly trained agents are available now, ready to help you design a targeted solution tailored to your budget and your needs. Find out why Carmoon is one of the most respected providers in the insurance industry. Select any option below to learn more about how we can help you to being planning for a secure future today.

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Business Solutions

Portrait of an attractive African American business woman smiling confidently We create individualized insurance programs for each of our clients.  Our custom solutions include General Liability, Business Automobile, Disability and many more.

Surety Bonds

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casualty and property insurance for businessIf you are like most Americans, protecting your home and family is your most important priority. Our home insurance  experts can design a solution that addresses all of your needs.

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Five Small Business Tax Credits You May Have Missed

desk of a small business owner figuring out tax creditsIt’s tax time again. And whether your’re taking the DIY route or working with a tax professional, you want to get every tax break available to you. To help you get started, here’s a review of some tax credits small business often owners miss.

No. 1. Work Opportunity Tax Credit for Hiring Veterans

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015 authorized tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed U.S. veterans. To qualify, the veteran(s) you hire must have served on active duty in the U.S. military for at least 180 days, and not have been on active duty for a period of more than 90 days in the 60 days prior to the hiring date. Other criteria also apply. However, most veterans who’ve been unemployed for a period of at least 4 weeks in the year prior to your hiring them will fall into this group.

The amount of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for hiring veterans varies. The maximum tax credit is $9,600, which is available to businesses who hire veterans with a service-related disability who have been unemployed for a minimum of six months. The maximum allowable tax credit for other veterans ranges from $2,400 to $5,600. The employee must work at least 120 hours for your business to be eligible.

No. 2.  Work Opportunity Tax Credit for Other Groups

In addition to authorizing tax credits for businesses that hire veterans, the PATH Act identified other “target” groups. These include people who live in certain rural areas and defined low-employment zones, and the long-term unemployed. Convicted felons and people whose family have received benefits from the U.S. Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)  may also be eligible. The Department of Labor provides this checklist to help you determine if any of your employees fall into the identified groups.

No. 3 Small-Business Health Care Tax Credit

Your business may qualify for this tax credit if you have fewer than 25 employees who earn an average of less that $50,000 per year. You must pay at least 50 percent of the cost of your employees health care premiums for a qualified health plan purchased on the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP Marketplace) established by the Affordable Care Act.

No. 4.  Small Employer Pension Plan Startup Tax Credit

This tax credit is available to small businesses who establish a new SEP, simple IRA or other qualified tax plan. To be eligible, you must employ no more than 100 employees who received no less than $5,000 in compensation during the years for which you claim the credit. The amount of the tax credit is 50 percent of your ordinary and necessary start-up costs, up to a maximum of $500 per year. You may claim the credit for up to three years.

No. 5. Disabled Access Credit

This credit is available to small business owners who made modifications to the business premises to accommodate a disabled employee. To be eligible you must have fewer than 30 employees and less than $1 million in earnings for the year.

Thinking Ahead to Next Year

Even if you can’t claim any of the listed tax credits for 2016, the time to start planning for next tax season is now. Although tax laws are in a state of flux right now, it may be worth your while to work with a tax professional to identify hiring practices that may give you access to additional tax credits next year. What’s more, a tax professional may be able to find additional incentives that you can take advantage of right now.

At The Carmoon Group, we believe that partnering with professional advisers is an essential part of a strong business plan. That’s why we offer a consultation with a risk management specialist at no cost to you.  So give us a call to make an appointment for your insurance review today. Or contact us online and we’ll get back to you right away.

 

Prepare Your Business for Severe Weather Events

severe weather event in Key West Florida shows blowing trees and storm surgeSevere weather and climate events are becoming more common in the United States. After years of historic drought and catastrophic wildfires, California was inundated this year with devastating rains, leading to billions of dollars in property damage across the state. Between Feb. 28 and March 2, 2017, people in areas all across the Midwest, South and Eastern United States reported over 60 tornadoes and over 1,0000 weather events, the largest number in over six years. And at least one expert — David Dilley, Senior Meteorologist for Global Weather Oscillations — has predicted that the 2017 hurricane season will be the “most dangerous and costliest in 12 years for the United States.”

Fortunately, improved storm tracking and early warning systems have improved the ability of our nation’s businesses to prepare for severe weather before it strikes. (Although this may change if the Trump administration’s proposed 17 percent budget cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration takes effect.) Nevertheless, the Small Business Administration estimates that 25 percent of small businesses do not reopen after a disaster strikes. So it’s important for business owners to think ahead and have contingency plans in place.

Hurricane Preparedness

If your business is located on the East Coast or one of the Gulf states, preparing for severe weather before hurricane season is a must. Some steps to take well in advance include:

  • Determine evacuation routes for employees. Hold at least one disaster drill per year.
  • Create a “shelter in place plan.” Have an office disaster kit stocked with first aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, extra cellphones and chargers, water purification tablets and any other emergency supplies you may need.
  • Determine how many, if any, employees will stay behind if a storm is approaching. Have enough canned goods and bottled water on hand to last a minimum of three days. (That’s one gallon of water per person per day.)
  • Create an emergency communication plan for key office personnel.
  • Back up all critical business data. Cloud storage is the safest, since it’s unlikely that the servers will be affected by a storm in your area.. If you choose to make digital copies of certain files (e.g CD or flash drives) store them in a safe location that is unlikely to be impacted by the storm.
  • Invest in an uninterruptable power supply if data loss is a serious concern.

When severe weather is approaching, monitor the storm’s progress and prepare to evacuate. Use whatever time is available to take steps to secure the premises, including:

  • Anchor roof-mounted equipment to the roof joists
  • Anchor trailers and heavy equipment to the ground
  • Clear drains and gutters
  • Remove loose debris from the exterior of the building.
  • Move any nonessential supplies to a secure location and brace any outdoor signs.
  • Turn off all nonessential electrical equipment
  • Anchor any flammable liquid containers such as propane tanks, or move them to another location.

Tornado Preparedness

Unlike hurricanes, tornadoes strike almost without warning and can leave utter devastation in their wake. This makes emergency preparedness all the more critical if you live in an area where tornadoes typically occur. Early preparations, such as those outlined above, are crucial. And regular tornado drills are a must.

Additionally, have a weather alert radio in your office. And if your business premises span several floors or buildings, equip each area with an early-warning system of some kind. Have a written disaster plan and give each employee a copy. That way everyone knows exactly what to do in the event a tornado is on the way.

Flood Preparedness

In the event of severe weather, some parts of the country are prone to flash floods. Preparation for flooding involve much the same kind of preplanning as those for severe windstorms. That is, you need a disaster and communication plan in place. You must educate your employees about what to do. And you must safeguard your files and data by backing everything up, either in the cloud or on a drive or CD.

Since most floods occur with some warning, it’s usually possible to safeguard your assets and inventory by moving them to higher ground. If severe weather is on the way, postpone deliveries and limit the amount of inventory you have on hand.

Additionally, use plugs or barriers to prevent floodwater from backing up into sewer drains. If flooding is imminent, turn off gas and electrical power to the premises, and secure any flammable liquid tanks to the floor.

Have the Right Insurance

At The Carmoon Group, we are experts in helping small business owners find insurance plans that fit their needs. We help you plan ahead for risks you may encounter, and work with you to develop systems that will support your business if a disaster occurs. Please don’t wait for severe weather to strike before you prepare. Contact us by phone or online an arrange your free consultation today.

Financing Options for Business Growth. What’s Right for You?

Every small business needs financing at some juncture, whether to meet increased demand or fund further growth. And there’s no doubt that there are more options for financing your business today than ever before. From traditional SBA loans to crowdfunding campaigns, the possibilities seem almost endless. But which one is right for you?

Before you start to search for financing for your business, it’s a good idea to review what’s available first. Take a few minutes now to learn about some of the financing options available for entrepreneurs.

Term Loans

Term loans are what most business owners think of first when they need financing. You apply for a loan with a traditional bank, which evaluates your credit score, how much you have to invest in the business and the amount of collateral you can provide. The bank then determines how much it will lend you and decides on the loan terms. Term loans are often for large amounts — up to $5.5 million certain for certain Small Business Administration loans.

There are several different types of term loans available to small business owners in the United States.

  • Short term loans: These typically have a life of between three and 18 months and carry higher interest rates than long-term loans.
  • SBA 7(a) loans: A very popular type of business loan, 7(a) loans are partially guaranteed by the federal government. However, the business works directly with an approved lender to negotiate terms. The maximum loan amount is $5 million, and there is no minimum amount. According to the SBA, the average 7(a)loan in 2015 was for $371,628.

The proceeds of a 7(a) loan can be used for many different purposes, including short or long-term working capital, purchasing real estate or buying equipment.

  • SBA CDC/504 loans: These loans can be made for up to $5.5 million. You can’t use the proceeds for short-term or long-term working capital, but may use them for purchasing real estate, making improvements to existing structures or buying long-term equipment or machinery.
  • SBA microloans: These loans are available for amounts of up to $50,000 for a term of up to six years.

 

Peer to Peer (P2P) Lending

Peer-to-peer lending is a relative newcomer to the financial landscape, and has been the subject of more than a little bad press. In P2P lending, a company matches potential borrowers with potential lenders, who earn interest on any funds they invest. P2P companies make money by charging both an origination and servicing fee of between 1 and 3 percent.

P2P loans are typically easier to access than traditional bank loans and carry a lower interest rate. As a rule, you don’t need to provide collateral.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is similar to peer-to-peer lending, but there’s no loan to repay. Online crowdfunding sites match entrepreneurs with potential investors, who pledge money to help the business grow.

The three largest crowdfunding sites in the United States today are Kickstarter, GoFundMe and IndieGoGo. GoFundMe is mostly for personal needs, such as education and medical bills. Kickstarter, on the other hand,  works mostly with creatives to fund projects in film, music and the arts. It operates on an all-or-nothing basis. That means the campaign receives none of the pledged funds unless it meets the funding goal within the specified time frame.

IndieGoGo is the newest entrant into the crowdfunding arena and the most business-centric. It’s open to a wide variety of industries and includes tools to help you develop your project from the ground up.

Working Asset Capital Financing

Also known as accounts-receivable financing, inventory financing or factoring, this type of financing turns your accounts receivable into cash. Typically, the financing company uses your accounts receivable as collateral for a loan. However, in some cases, it will purchase them outright for a fixed price, usually 80 to 90 percent of their face value. You get you cash immediately, and after the accounts are paid in full, the financing company gives you back the remainder of their value, after taking out its fee.

Home Equity Loan/Line of Credit

Taking out a home equity loan or line of credit is relatively easy because you’re borrowing against your equity in your home. However, since the financial crisis of 2008, it’s not quite as easy to take advantage of this financing option as it was in the past.

A home equity loan is simply a loan, which you pay back at a fixed interest rate over a set period of time. A home equity line of credit, however, is more fluid. The lender grants you a credit line which you can borrow against at any time. You make payments and pay interest only on the amount borrowed, and you can continue to borrow up to the credit line as you pay the principal back. This flexibility makes a home equity credit line a good option for financing short-term working capital and growing the business over time.

A major drawback to a home equity loan, of course, is that you are putting up your home as collateral. Don’t take advantage of this option unless you’re absolutely sure you can pay the money back.

Learn More

At The Carmoon Group, we work with you on many fronts to help your business grow. We can create a risk management plan to protect your assets, help you obtain needed financing, or simply offer great advice. Give us a call today to learn how we can partner with you to make your business a success. Or contact us online and we’ll get back to you right away.

Ouch! How to Deal With Bad Online Reviews

happy small business owner who wants to avoid bad online reviewsSocial media is a ubiquitous force in almost every arena today. And when you use social media effectively, it can boost customer engagement, increase brand awareness and drive leads and sales. But what happens when customers or clients post negative feedback on your social media page, or negative reviews on Yelp? Should you shrug your shoulders, decide you can’t please everyone, and move on? Not if your smart, the experts say. Instead, use bad online reviews to your advantage by following a few simple tips.

Monitor Your Social Media Sites

You can’t respond to a bad online review if you don’t know it exists. So, the first step in dealing with negative feedback is monitoring the places where it’s likely to be found. Some disgruntled customers will take to Yelp to voice their opinions, but a fair number will also turn to your Facebook page or Twitter feed. Looking at these sites regularly (at least once a day) is the only surefire way to learn what your clients are saying and deal with any problems they bring up.

Take Bad Online Reviews Seriously

It’s a big mistake to ignore bad reviews, especially on Yelp. According to a 2011 study from the Harvard Business School, a one-star rating on Yelp can drop your business revenue by up to 9 percent. So it’s definitely worth your while to respond.

Investigate Before You Act

No matter how much it stings to read a bad online review, it’s important to take a deep breath and figure out what went wrong. Assume that the bad review is at least somewhat accurate. Talk to any employees who may have dealt with the unhappy customer, and look through your records to gather all the facts. Then contact the customer privately either by email or phone to iron out next steps. If you’re able to resolve their concern successfully, post a response to that effect online.

Don’t Engage in Battle Online

If you feel that a customer has slammed your business unfairly, don’t use social media to defend yourself against the claim. Instead, be the grownup in the room, and respond in a way that makes the customer feel heard. A good public response to a bad online review might read:

“So sorry you feel you were treated unfairly. We do everything in our power to provide a great experience for every client. We’re sorry that wasn’t the case for you, and we’d like to make it up to you! Please feel free to contact us at [email address or phone.]”

Chances are the customer will not reach out again. But if he does, be prepared to stand behind your promise to make things right.

Shoot for Positive Reviews

Obviously, one bad online review isn’t going to hurt your business much, unless it’s the only review you’ve got. If you’ve got 100 reviews and only 5 of them are negative, then you’re way ahead of the game. You’ll still have a four-star rating, and that’s not bad.

But how do you get customers to post positive reviews on social media? Obviously, providing them with a great product and excellent customer service is a good place to start. But happy customers aren’t typically as motivated as unhappy ones to post online.

Still, there’s nothing wrong with giving a happy client a little nudge. Hand out business cards with your Facebook and Yelp URLs printed on the back, and simply ask the customer to post a review. Don’t, however, offer any incentives — at least not on Yelp. The company’s terms of service specifically prohibit businesses from compensating customers for good reviews in any way (that includes payment, discount coupons, etc.)

Live and Learn

Social media is here to stay, and it’s not always going to be your friend. The best advice anyone can give you about bad online reviews is to look at them as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes. No one likes being criticized. But if you find a grain of truth in every bad review, you can use it as an opportunity to learn and grow. And that, over the long term, is what will build your reputation online.

At The Carmoon Group, we work with you to help your business grow. From insurance to risk management planning to financial advice, we’re here to help your business succeed. Give us a call today or contact us online. We’d love to chat about your needs.

Build Your Brand with These Helpful Tips

young woman business owner learning to build your brandIt’s a competitive world out there, and knowing how to build your brand is an important skill if you want to succeed. No matter what you’re selling, be it auto parts or consulting services, brand recognition is the first step towards brand loyalty. And brand loyalty is what keeps your customers coming back for more.

But how do you manage to establish your brand among a sea of competitors? How to you make your business stand out from the crowd? Whether you’re an established business person of just starting out, these tips can help you build your brand and bring in new customers at the same time.

No. 1: Hire a pro to craft your logo

Many small business owners ascribe to the “penny wise pound foolish” school of marketing. For instance, they will spend a lot of money on direct mail and email marketing campaigns, but skimp on creating a logo because design services cost too much.

Your logo is the cornerstone of your brand identity. It reflects what you do, who your are, your business personality and your sense of style. It is the face of your company in the marketplace: the first thing your customers see when you communicate with them. So, work with a professional and get it done right.

No. 2: Now, put your logo everywhere

Once you have a memorable logo to present to the world, make sure you use it consistently. Put your logo, tagline and contact information on every piece of paper that leaves your place of business. That includes receipts, estimates, invoices and even packing slips. You may also want to hand out free promotional items, such as calendars and address books, with your logo on the front. Do you have employees? Order company tee shirts, hats or even lapel pins for them to wear.

No. 3:  Spring for professional business cards

With the growth of online marketing, many small business owners have come to believe that business cards are a thing of the past. But a professional-looking business card is a great marketing tool, if you use it effectively. Carry a stash of cards in your pocket, and hand one to everyone you meet, whether they seem like a prospective customer or not. You never know where your next referral may come from, so it’s smart of use every opportunity to get the word out.

No.4 Market your brand online

Sure, everyone knows that you need a website to succeed in business today. But a website won’t help you build your brand unless you make it your own. Free website builders such as WordPress and Weebly are a great way to create an online presence. But you’ll need to customize the site if you want it to reflect who you are. Unless you’re skilled at writing code or have a lot of time to learn the ins and outs of web design, this will probably mean hiring a website designer to get exactly what you want.

No. 5: Use social media

Using social media effectively is a great way to build your brand. But remember, “effectively” is the operative word here. Just having a Facebook page and a Twitter account doesn’t provide much of a boost if no one is seeing your posts and tweets. Keep your content user-centric and engaging to improve your organic reach, and avoid overtly promotional posts. If you want to include a call to action, deliver it sotto voce for best results.

No. 6 Share your expertise

One great way to engage customers and build your brand  is to share your knowledge, either in person or online. Own a health food store? Offer your customers a free in-store cooking class once a week. Then hand out recipe cards with your logo and contact information emblazoned on the front. If you sell online consulting services, offer a a free webinar or whitepaper that shares some portion of your expertise. Just make sure to get the email addresses of everyone who signs up so you can follow up later on.

Learn more

At The Carmoon Group, we excel at helping small businesses succeed. Our professional staff provides  helpful, realistic advice on a wide array of topics, from insurance to marketing to finding capital to fund continued growth. We’d love the opportunity to partner with you. Give us a call today, or contact us online for your free consultation. We’ll get back to you right away.

Does Your Construction Business Need Business Insurance?

As the owner of a construction business, you undoubtedly know that you need insurance to protect your assets from certain risks. However, you may not be clear about exactly what kind of business insurance your particular business needs.To help you sort out your options, here’s a brief overview of the types of coverage you may want to consider, and why.

First, Know Your Risk

Before you consider your insurance needs, it’s a good idea to take a look at the risks your company may face. As a rule, construction companies encounter four major types of risk.

  • Property damage from fire, windstorms, theft or vandalism
  • Loss of income due to a catastrophic event, such as a fire
  • Liability claims for to injuries to non-employees or damage to their property
  • Employee injuries, illnesses and deaths

Not every type of risk applies equally to every company. For example, if you don’t have employees, employee injuries are not going to be a concern. Similarly, if you’re a carpenter/handyman who works out of your home, you may little property to protect. (Although your homeowner’s policy will likely not cover your business assets, so it’s important to protect what you have!)

In general, however, almost every construction business needs liability and property coverage to some degree. How you choose to implement that coverage will depend to a great extent on the size of your business and how much you have to lose.

Liability Insurance

General liability insurance is the backbone of your business insurance coverage, and is required to get a contractor’s license in most states.  It protects your assets in the event you are liable for a bodily injury or property damage claim.

Suppose, for example, the owner of a home where you are remodeling the kitchen trips over an electrical cord your worker left on the floor and breaks her arm. Your general liability insurance would pick up the tab for her medical bills and physical therapy. It would also protect you if you or your worker damages the owner’s property by mistake.

Property Insurance

Just like it sounds, property insurance covers your business property if it is damaged or destroyed by a “covered event,” such as a fire, severe storm, or theft. Typically, this type of business insurance covers the physical premises where you conduct business. It also protects any adjacent storage areas and all of the contents these structures contain. The coverage typically applies to tools and equipment as well.

Depending on your circumstances, you may also want to add “inland marine” insurance to your business insurance plan. This type of policy (its name notwithstanding) covers tools and equipment while they’re in transit as well as mobile equipment, such as forklifts, backhoes and bulldozers.

Builder’s Risk Insurance

Builder’s risk is a type of inland marine insurance that covers buildings that are under construction. Depending on your policy, it may also cover materials on the job site at the time the loss occurs.

Business Income Insurance

Business income insurance is a type of business insurance that reimburses you for your net income losses if you are forced to temporarily stop operations due to a covered event (for example, a fire.) It covers operating expenses such as payroll and costs associated with relocating, typically for up to 12 months.

Workers Compensation Insurance

If you have employees, most states require that you carry workers compensation insurance. This no-fault coverage will pay a worker’s medical expenses and a portion of their lost wages in the event they are injured on the job. It also applies in cases of illness due to job-related exposures.

Business Automobile Insurance

Whether you use your personal vehicle for business purposes or you own several business automobiles, you need a commercial automobile policy. This coverage protects you in the event you or an employee causes personal injury or property damage in a crash.

Get Expert Advice

Choosing the best blend of business insurance coverage may seem like a simple task. But you run the risk of under-insuring your business or paying for coverage you don’t need if you don’t seek out expert advice. At The Carmoon Group, we’ve been helping small businesses get the best coverage for nearly 20 years. Give us a call or contact us online today and let us design a program tailored to your unique needs.

Common Insurance Claims & How to Avoid Them

They say that the best defense is a good offense. And that’s certainly true when it comes to protecting your business from insurance claims. Accidents will happen, of course. And a solid insurance program is the best way to protect your assets when they do. But you can also minimize your risk proactively by putting a few simple safeguards in place

Tips for Preventing Fires

Fires can be devastating to a small business. Your physical space, equipment, supplies and files can be swiftly destroyed by flames, water and smoke. And while your property insurance will help you rebuild, it can take many months to recover fully from a serious fire.

Follow these tips to help prevent fires or contain them when they do occur:

  • Contact your local fire department and ask the fire marshall to assess your property for fire hazards. Then follow his or her advice.
  • Install fire alarms, smoke detectors, CO2 alarms and a sprinkler system. These can prevent thousands of dollars in damage to your property, and are well worth the upfront cost.
  • Have an appropriate number of fire extinguishers on the property. All-purpose extinguishers won’t damage electrical equipment, so they’re your best bet.
  • Have an evactuation plan clearly posted in your building(s), and hold a fire drill at least once a year. Your worker’s lives are one thing your insurance cannot replace.

Tips for Preventing Burglaries and Theft

Most thefts and burglaries are crimes of opportunity, so a little advance planning can help keep your business safe and decrease the liklihood of insurance claims. Some basic safety tips include:

  • Trim bushes and shrubs so they do not obstruct windows
  • Install motion sensor lights outdoors
  • Have indoor lights on a timer, so it appears that someone is working even after hours.
  • Consider tinting your windows — thieves are less likely to break in if they can’t see what’s inside.
  • Install an alarm system that notifies the police automatically when it goes off.
  • If you’re doing business in a high-crime area, consider hiring a security guard or a security service to patrol the area after hours.

Tips for Preventing Slips and Falls

Slips and falls are one of the most common causes of liability insurance claims and a major cause of injuries to workers as well. Yet most of these types of accidents can be avoided with a little bit of attention to your physical space. Here are a few suggestions that will help keep your customers and your employees safe.

  • Replace frayed or worn rugs
  • Protect entryways with adsorbent pads with beveled edges
  • Promptly clean up spills of any kind
  • Have “wet floor” signs on hand and use them as needed
  • Keep aisles clear of debris and electrical cords
  • Clear snow from your premises promptly
  • Sand icy areas liberally
  • Install traction strips in areas that tend to be slippery when they’re wet.
  • Have appropriate safety equipment available for workers and make sure they’re trained in their use.

Tips for Preventing Automobile Accidents

Auto accidents are a common cause of insurance claims for small businesses, so it’s important to have business automobile insurance in place to protect any vehicles the company owns. Just as important, though, is keeping those vehicles in good repair and making sure that anyone who drives them has the skills and experience they need. Some important safety practices include:

  • Never allow an unlicensed driver to operate a motor vehicle
  • Have vehicles inspected regularly, especialy fluids, tires and brakes.
  • Make repairs promptly.
  • If you are in an area where inclement weather is an issue, ensure that all of your employees are trained to drive safely when the weather is bad.

Tips for Preventing Product Liability Insurance Claims

A customer can bring a product liability claim against any part of a product’s supply chain. That means that retailers or wholesalers can be hit with insurance claims even if they had no part in creating the defect that caused harm. Unfortunately, the only “prevention” in these types of cases is to make sure you have product liability insurance in place.

If you’re a product manufacturer, on the other hand, or if your a service provider who instructs customers about a product’s use, there are a few things you can do.

  • Make sure the product includes clear directions about all of its intended uses, not just its primary use.
  • Clearly warn the customer about any hazards they might encounter when using the product.
  • If you’re leasing equipment (such as bicycles or watercraft) have the customer demonstrate that they know how to use it safely before leaving your place of business.

Even the most conscientious business owners can’t protect themselves against all insurance claims. But making safety a priority can help to keep your assets safe and your insurance premiums low. 

Need some more advice on managing your company’s risk? Contact the business insurance experts at The Carmoon Group today. We’re  here to help!

 

Three Risks Your Contracting Business Can’t Avoid

Running a contracting business is a complex enterprise. You’re a small business owner, faced with all of the challenges that every small business owner faces every day. But you’re also a construction manager who has to deal with the unique demands of a high-risk industry in which small problems can quickly escalate into big, costly delays.

Not every problem is predictable. Nor is every issue something you can control. Nevertheless, being aware of some of the most common risks in your industry can help you keep your contracting business on track.

Risk #1. Injuries

Physical injuries are undoubtedly the greatest hazard in the contracting business. Even on the safest job site, falling debris, slips and falls, electrical accidents and equipment malfunctions injure workers regularly.  Even physical exertion and extreme temperatures pose a risk to your employees. According to the Center for Construction Research and Training, about 40 percent of nonfatal construction injuries involve the effects of physical exertion and exposure to heat and cold.

Not every injury is preventable, of course. But adhering closely to OSHA standards can help keep your job sites safe. Employee training is also essential, especially for young, new hires. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that six out of 10 construction injuries occur within the worker’s first year of employment. Older workers, on the other hand, are hurt less often while on the job. 

When accidents do occur, they can impact your workflow a great deal. Even minor injuries can influence productivity if the injured person needs to take time off. Depending on the size of your workforce, it may be hard, if not impossible, to pick up the slack. And if the worker is seriously injured, you could face legal troubles, even if the accident was not your fault.

Bottom line: Protect your workers by closely adhering to OSHA standards, and inspect your job sites regularly for safety hazards that can lead to injuries and even deaths.Then protect yourself against costly lawsuits and regulatory penalties by making sure you have Workers Compensation Insurance and General Liability insurance as well.

Risk # 2. Delays and Missed Deadlines

Every client wants and expects contractors to complete work on time. Yet every contractor knows that a long list of factors can cause unexpected delays. Some of these, of course, are client-driven. When the owner changes the initial design midway through the project, delays are inevitable. Weather, equipment breakdown, and late deliveries of materials are other factors that are pretty much out of your control.

On the other hand, some delays are the result of poor planning on the contractor’s part. Issues such as not pulling needed permits ahead of time, hiring an insufficient number of workers, or failing to schedule utility installation appropriately often result in very avoidable delays. Miscommunication and poor documentation are another source of costly overruns.

Bottom Line: To keep your projects running smoothly, follow these tips from contracting consultant Andrew Morrison, a general contractor with 15 years on the job:

  • Set up an office on the job site, and carve out at least one hour per day to review your progress towards goals
  • Document everything. Don’t try to manage projects in your head.
  • Stay in close contact with vendors and subcontractors to ensure that they’re still on board with original timelines.
  • Order materials, utilities and other essentials for the project well in advance.
  • Monitor the weather, and create contingency plans for weather-related delays.

Most importantly, if you do run into a significant delay, communicate with the project owner promptly. No one likes surprises. Most people will work with you if you’re honest and upfront.

Risk #3. Downtime

The contracting business is seasonal, unless you’re operating in one of the few parts of the country where it’s warm all year round. Typically, business picks up around March or April, and slows down around the fall equinox. Companies who have government contracts may be slightly less impacted. But cold, wet weather can stall any construction job.

Economic factors also impact a contractor’s workflow. New construction fell off dramatically during the Great Recession and rebounded slowly, leaving many contractors scurrying for work. Nearly a decade later, the construction industry is again robust, thanks in large part to an uptick in private sector growth. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, 39  states added new construction jobs between 2015 and 2016.

Bottom Line: Managing your finances so you’re prepared for inevitable downtime is a major factor in your contracting business’ success. If you’re new to the industry, talk to other contracting professionals to get an idea of how to plan a yearly budget, taking seasonality into account. Then play it safe. Put enough money aside while things are going well to tide you over during predictably slow months. Then add a little extra for unexpected emergencies.

At The Carmoon Group, our priority is helping construction businesses manage risk. With over 20 years in the industry, we have the expertise to build an insurance program tailored to your needs. Give us a call or contact us online now to set up an appointment for a free consultation. You’ll be glad you did.

Five Tips for Running a Successful Construction Business

Whether you’re new to the industry or a seasoned pro, running a successful construction business is a challenging job. It’s easy to get bogged down in operational details and forget the basic rules of managing a business well. This is particularly true when things are running smoothly. After all, if you’re already doing great, why rock the boat?

Well, for one thing, “doing great” is a relative term. There’s always room for improvement, and a quick review of the basics doesn’t take much time. Who knows? A little tweaking of your business practices might just take you from doing “great” to doing phenomenal.

So what are our top five tips to running a successful construction business? Check out our favorites here.

No. 1. Keep Learning.

Whether you’re new to the construction game or have been in the business for 20 years, you can’t grow your business if you don’t learn. Building ongoing education into your regular routine is the best way to accomplish this.

Learning doesn’t need to take a lot of time. Subscribe to some trade magazines and online blogs, and read the articles that challenge you to open up to new ideas. Take a class a few times a year, either in person or online. And make sure that you attend at least one major conference annually. It’s a great way to pick up on industry trends, make new contacts and increase referrals at the same time.

No. 2.  Up Your Game

Let’s be honest. The public perception of most construction contractors isn’t all that great. Many people see the profession as generally unreliable, and with good cause. Research shows that construction contractors are late (or don’t show up) for appointments about 30 to 40 percent of the time.

One way to set yourself apart, then, is to show your clients how professional you are. Start by:

  • Returning all phone calls promptly.
  • Showing up on time for every appointment
  • Having professional business cards
  • Dressing appropriately for client meetings
  • Preparing a detailed, written contract for every job

No 3. Qualify Your Clients

When you’re trying to build a business, it’s tempting to bid on every job. But not every job is going to be a good fit for your company, and not every client is going to be someone with whom you want to work. So before you begin selling yourself, qualify the client first. Find out:

  • What they want to do
  • When they want to start
  • How much they are willing to invest
  • When they want the work done.
  • Who will make the final buying decision
  • What is their time frame is for moving forward

Getting these questions answered up front will save you from wasting time on jobs that you really don’t want or require more resources than you have to invest. Remember, running a successful construction business is about choosing wisely and making every job count.

No. 4. Use Fixed-Quote Pricing

The best way to invite disputes with your clients is to structure your contracts on a “time and materials”  basis. Yes, these kinds of jobs sometimes work out. But sooner or later, you’re going to encounter a customer who doesn’t want to pay and find yourself in court. Of course, this could happen with any job. But a well-written, carefully crafted fixed-price contract is your best weapon if it does.

No. 5. Don’t Underbid

As a professional construction contractor, you know how much you need to make to turn a profit. But when you’re competing in a hot market, it’s tempting to compromise and shave a little off your markup to try to win the job. But that’s rarely a good idea.

Research shows that price is not the top reason why clients select a contractor. (In fact, it barely makes the top 10.) What clients want most is a dependable professional who will take care of their needs and provide quality work. Sell yourself, not the price, and you will usually come out ahead.

Running a successful construction business is not just about doing a great job. It’s just as much about knowing how to position yourself and your company so you stand out from the crowd. At The Carmoon Group, we specialize in helping construction professionals succeed. Whether you need help with financing, insurance or a risk-management plan, you can count on us to for sound advice. So give us a call now or contact us online. We’ll get back to you right away.  

 

Starting a Business? Avoid these Common Mistakes

starting a business diagramMore and more Americans are starting their own businesses these days. In fact, the number of small businesses in the United states has grown by nearly 50 percent over the past quarter century, and there’s no sign that the trend is slowing down. Small businesses today account for over half of all U.S. sales and tens of thousands of jobs.

If you’re one of millions of Americans who’s thinking of starting a business, you’re probably learning a lot about how to be a success. But you need to be just as aware of what mistakes to avoid. Here’s our list of the five things you definitely don’t want to do when you’re first starting out.

No. 1 Assume You’ll Get Financing 

It’s been nearly a decade since the start of the Great Recession. But America’s lenders are still far from eager to lend money to people who are starting a business without some assurance they’ll get their money back.  That means you will probably need to come up with some collateral — typically your home or your investments — in order to get a small business loan from a bank. And you probably don’t want to do that unless you’re very certain your business will succeed.

If you can’t get a loan from a traditional lender, or don’t want to risk your a substantial portion of your assets just yet, look to other sources to finance your business. Personal savings, friends and family, corporate loans or even federal grants are possible sources of capital. Or try a crowdfunding site such as Indiegogo or Kickstarter. They’ve raised millions of dollars for a variety of projects since 2009.  

No 2. Don’t Have a Vision

Starting a business to make money or fill up your free time is a very bad idea. Running a small business is incredibly grueling work, and any financial pay off — if it happens at all — is probably a couple of decades away.

On the other hand, having a clearly defined “Why” will get you through the hard times. It will also help you attract like-minded employees who share your vision and have the energy and motivation to help the business succeed.

No 3. Don’t Have a Clear Marketing Plan

One of the biggest mistakes people make when starting a business is assuming that customers will not only find them but will also want to buy what they sell. But it’s not enough to have a great product or service. Somehow you have to get the word out and woo new customers away from their preferred brand. And that’s nearly impossible unless you’ve identified who those customers are.

Start by asking yourself what problem or “pain point” your product solves. Then identify who in your potential market has this problem and concentrate your marketing efforts there. If you’ve developed a great new new skin care line that builds collagen and erases wrinkles, for example, you don’t want to waste money trying to sell it to tweens and teens.

No. 4: Don’t Have a Value Proposition

A value proposition is a clear, concise statement that communicates why a customer should buy from you. It is a promise to your potential customers about what problem you will solve for them and why you will do it better than anyone else. It is not a statement of your product’s features. Your customers don’t care that your skin cream took five years to develop and is made from 50% palm kernel oil. They want to know how it’s going to improve their skin; how soon they will see results; and why your cream is better than Brand X.  

No. 5:  Try to Do Everything Yourself

Even if you’re a sole proprietor, trying to do everything yourself virtually guarantees that you’ll do nothing well. If you’re just starting a business and not yet in a position to hire employees, at least outsource some of the routine tasks that take too much time. The internet now offers dozens of websites where you can post freelance jobs and hire qualified workers for a day, a week or longer term. Check out Upwork (formerly ODesk) for your everyday needs. Or if you’re looking for highly skilled workers for an important project, Toptal is an excellent bet.
Starting a business is challenging and scary. Knowing where you excel and where you need help is very important to your success. And that’s where the experts at The Carmoon Group come in. We can help you optimize your business strategy, manage your risk, find capital when you need it, and much, much more. Just give us a call or contact us online for your free consultation. We’ll get back to you right away.

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