Friday, May 30, 2014

Why your business needs insurance

When creating a business the last thing a business owner wants to think about is additional, seemingly unnecessary expenses - especially if those expenses do not contribute in any way to the bottom line. However, all business owners face risks in one form or another, so protecting both their investment and personal assets is essential. 

A forward-thinking small business owner understands the various risks that may befall his business. Accordingly, he wisely takes proactive measures to mitigate against any financial loss arising from such events.  What risks may occur during the course of normal business operations? It varies, of course, depending on the type of business operations involved, however insurance coverage exists for property damage, legal liability, and employee-related risks. When people think of insurance, they generally think of items being insured against theft or damage. A jewelry store would need to be able to cover for the loss of stolen diamonds, for instance. But physical property is not a business owner's only vulnerability. Consider what might happen if one of your employees is injured on the job, a natural disaster occurs, or a business partner dies.  Protecting your investment requires purchasing enough insurance to cover your assets, material or otherwise. Although a business owner's personal assets are protected if the business is a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation, neither is an adequate substitute for liability insurance to cover a business from losses. 

Additionally, we live in a very litigious society where nothing truly disastrous must occur for someone to file a lawsuit. The expense of hiring a lawyer to fight off nuisance suit can be the different between a start up business in the black and one in the red. Consider your customer base - is it composed of people who might try to play and win the lawsuit lottery? If so, you must insure.

Even if a business owners decides against seeking insurance, financial lenders and investors will often require various forms of insurance (fire, flood, life) before any business transaction occurs.  They simply do not wish to share the financial risk associated with any unexpected events that may befall a business. 

State governments also require businesses with employees to have a certain amount of some kinds of insurance to cover employees who seek unemployment, disability, or workers' compensation. Companies that employ road vehicles for business operations are generally required by the state to purchase commercial auto insurance as well. 

Do your homework. If you run your business yourself, at home, and do not have merchandise or stock to sell or store, your insurance needs may be few. But for all the other business owners who make and sell products, employ other to help, and rent or own facilities to do so in, you need to consult an agent about what coverage is best for your needs. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Making adjustments for best workplace environments

As discussed before, the newest trend in office design is the collaborative open layout in which employees are encouraged to work together and share ideas.  This new trend stems from the surge of Millennials into the workforce using technology continuously.  An open workplace reflects the environment of a classroom or coffee shop in which employees bounce ideas off each other and think creatively by communicating with those around them. Open environments require smaller rental space commitments, and are less expensive to clean, as well as heat and cool and so are popular with business owners cutting costs. Although the open concept may work well for extroverts who are inspired by visual interaction and energized by being around others, for introverts these surroundings may prove to be more a hindrance to productivity than a motivator.  

There is a distinct difference between the way introverts and extroverts tend to function in office space.  Some extroverts are extremely productive and creative when they are surrounded by other employees throughout the workday; but many introverts need a quiet office to achieve the greatest productivity.  There must be a way for both types of employees to achieve optimal performance at work.

It's a good idea for businesses to periodically assess what kind of social environment their employees are creating. Study work patterns, and look for problematic workplace interactions (these are often not hidden!). Survey your employees both formally and informally. At least some of the problems your business experiences may stem directly from workplace arrangements, and those can be surprisingly easy to change through desk swaps or targeted scheduling. 

Some businesses also allow their employees the option of working from home.  The employer is still able to monitor the employee’s progress day to day through various tools such as telecommunicating, Skype, or email.  Another option is to provide both an open concept layout for those who work better in a group setting and a closed, quiet room for those who work better alone.  In a decently sized office space, a separation of rooms can be achieved with removable walls and office furniture that is easy to move.  
Conference rooms are another space to use for group work. They often go unused and could be added to the mixed of differently used work environments.  

While Millennials have a reputation for being more comfortable in groups, there are, of course, plenty of introverted representatives of Gen Y. Workers from other generations will also appreciate the option of being able to work in private and focus entirely on one project at least part of the time. Using your office space in the best way to maximize productivity of your employees is extremely important both for productivity and the maintenance of healthy work relationships. Providing a space that all people feel comfortable will benefit everyone in your company. Do not be afraid to try a number of solutions in your attempts to create the best arrangements. Long term workplace harmony is worth a bit of construction dust.