Small Business Insurance Needs

As our economy deteriorated over the past 3 years more and more people started their own business and/or began to work from home. It offered a perfect solution for professionals who found themselves out of work, but still possessing skills and talents to make a good living. That business model has proved quite successful, but necessitated these same people learning a new skill; the language of small business insurance.

A local independent insurance agent specializing in small business needs usually offers your new business the right options and information to make an informed decision. These can include:

• Flexible coverage options tailored to your unique business needs. Independent agents represent multiple companies and can offer a comprehensive portfolio of business insurance products to help cover your facilities, vehicles and property.

• A local agent who understands your community’s business climate. As business owners themselves, they also realize the importance of managing expenses and staying focused on the bottom line.

• Competitive quotes. As an independent agent, we can evaluate your specific situation against the various companies we represent and garner multiple quotes for your complete insurance needs. Some companies value and rate auto better then health and possibly even property.

• A disaster protection and recovery planning resource. We have seen all shapes and forms of bad business decisions and know the contingencies needed to protect your finances and personal property.

• Expert guidance on reducing risk. Our loss control staff can help you identify steps for keeping your employees safe and your operation running smoothly.

We look forward to helping you in the near future. SSB is a local insurance company that has been serving the east county area of Portland for almost 40 years.

Independent Insurance Agency Customer Service

If you are like me you have been seen countless TV commercials from a variety of national Insurance companies all claiming cheaper prices. I have seen “discount double check” claims, save an average of $545 by combining your auto and home policies and the infamous insurance policy store with counters and funny people helping you to save money (even if you work for another company!).

The reality is, all these same claims can be made by your independent insurance agent BUT he usually doesn’t. The reason he does not make these claims is he knows there are many factors that go into getting a discount like where you live, how far you drive to work, what is your credit score or when was your last accident or claim? All affect your rating as a client and subsequently your insurance policy costs.

An independent insurance agent who represents a variety of carriers does have one big advantage over all of these nationally advertised companies though. He can evaluate your specific situation against his portfolio of companies and place you with the one that is best and lowest cost for you! Many agents represent nationally advertised companies like Progressive, AIG, Travelers and Kaiser.

These same independent insurance companies also specialize in providing superior customer service and care. They know your name and who your kids are, what car you drive and often set yearly meetings to review your status and what changes you need to make in your coverage’s
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Independent insurance agencies in Portland Oregon like SSB, who have been in business since 1976, know and appreciate your business.

Running your Small Business From Home

Does your homeowners’ insurance policy cover losses related to your small business? In the past couple of years more and more people have started to work from home. There are a lot of benefits to working from home including financial savings, schedule flexibility and availability to family. But, it can also create risks that you may not be aware of.

Your homeowners’ insurance policy won’t necessarily cover losses related to your business, such as a fire in your former-garage-now-office that destroys your paper records or computer. In fact, if you don’t declare that you run a home business to your insurer certain coverage in your homeowners’ policy may be unavailable following a loss.

Most home based business owners do not carry business insurance, even though the cost of these policies is less than $25 a month. Just because your business is small don’t assume that it doesn’t run many of the same risks as larger companies, such as being sued by an unhappy client or facing a lawsuit as the result of someone being injured on your property. Most small business owners don’t have the time, resources or expertise to defend claims on their own. Hence having the right Liability insurance is extremely important.

So when should you buy small business insurance? If you’re subject to self-employment tax, have to file a schedule C, and are filing a small business tax return then you’re technically running a small business.

There are two types of coverage that are essential for small home-based business: general liability and professional liability insurance. Additionally if you are expanding and adding employees, it’s also worth considering workers’ compensation coverage.

Having the proper insurance coverage even though you are a small business operating out of your house can not only protect your assets but give you the peace of mind of knowing your insurer will pay for your legal defense and the cost of covered claims, up to your policy’s limit.

Health Care Reform Helps Small Business Owners

According to the article “How Health Reform Benefits Small Employers” by John Arensmeyer on Businessweek.com, the new health care reform bill is looking to lower health insurance costs for America’s 28 million small businesses.

Many health insurance companies in 2010 saw dramatic increases in small group plan enrollment.  United Health Group specifically enrolled 75,000 new small business employees and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City saw a 58% jump in their small business coverage.  They attribute this to the new health care reform bill which offers generous tax credits.  The new law offers a tax credit for up to 35% of their health insurance costs which is going to rise to 50% starting in 2014.  This will have a huge impact on small businesses across the nation.

Some critics believe that not enough small businesses will be eligible for the tax credit, but a report released in 2010 says otherwise.  This report, released with Families USA, a non profit consumer health care advocate, determined that about 84% of small businesses across the nation would be eligible for the tax credit on 2010 returns.  This is over 4 million companies and is seen as a great benefit overall.  It’s clear that there will be some type of improvement for small businesses as they strive to offer affordable health insurance benefits to their employees.

SSB is an Independent Insurance company servicing the East County area of Portland for over 45 years.

Business Insurance for the Home Based Business

These days a lot of people have decided to start a home based business to create additional income. It is important to remember that the home business is a business and as such need to be insured like any other business.

Your basic homeowners’ policy does not cover home businesses nor does your personal auto policy cover autos used for business purposes.

What insurance coverage do you need for your home based business?

Just as there are many different home based businesses, there are different insurances that should be considered. Do determine what insurance you need, ask yourself the following questions:
• Does your business supply, manufacture or create a product?
• Will you use a vehicle for any business purpose?
• What electronic equipment will be used?
• Are you providing a professional service?
• Do you have customers coming to the house?

Business Property Insurance

In most instances, your home business will need business property insurance. Business property insurance insures against loss or damage to property used in the business. If, for example, a fire occurs and your home office is destroyed, your computer, fax machine, copier, furniture and printer would not be covered under your homeowners’ policy. You need a business property policy to provide that coverage.

Liability Insurance

Liability insurance protects the business when it is liable for damages caused to another or another’s property. This type of business insurance is necessary if business visitors will visit the house.

Product Liability Coverage

Product liability coverage protects the business if the business is liable for damages to a person or property caused by a product supplied, designed or manufactured by the company. If you make or supply something, consult with your insurance professional on the need for this coverage.

Business Auto

Your personal auto policy does not cover a business use of your vehicle. If you will make deliveries, visit clients, pick up packages or use your auto for a business purpose and you get in an accident, your personal auto policy will not cover you.

Other Coverages and Considerations

Finally, the home business must comply with all regulations, health codes, laws, regulations and statutes. A failure to do so may void coverage. Employment laws must be followed. If you will have employees, you will need workers’ compensation coverage.

If You Use Facebook Will That Affect Your Insurance Rates?

Could the information you post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media come back to haunt you in the form of higher insurance rates?

A Boston-based research group; Celent predicts that within three years social media will be integrated into underwriting practices for various types of insurance. Insurance companies already use social media to track down customers they suspect of trying to trick them on claims or overclaim the loss. Now the same Celent analyst says that Underwriting is next.

Why would an insurance underwriter have any interest in your online social comments? The answer is simple yet very important for insurancers; it adds context to your overall risk profile. Before an insurer offers to share the financial risk of misfortunes that you may be vulnerable to, like auto accidents, home fires, health crises or outliving your money, they want to know as much as possible about your life, activities, friends, associates and purchases. Needless to say they cannot actually pry into your personal life but it’s now an important step in their evaluation process before they take you on as a client and at what price?

As you might expect, with the power of the internet and proliferation of private information about us that is available, social media has become the quickest and easiest ways to review your personal life. A 2010 study by the Pew Research Center found that 40 percent of all U.S. Internet users, and 77 percent of those in the 18-29 age group use social networking sites. Insurers realize that there can be ethical issues with including social media in your risk profile for underwriting your policies. Certainly there is a slippery slope of online privacy and if everything is true when posted online. It’s one thing for an insurer to gather information about your driving record or health information from other insurers like the Medical Information Bureau. It is an entirely different discussion if they increase your premium because a friend Facebooked that you are a bad driver or like to climb mountains for recreation.

Do you think it’s fair, right, and/or legal for insurance companies to factor in your social media posts before setting your insurance terms and rates?

Auto Insurance Cost Savings

There is not a client we talk to that is not interested in reducing their cost of insurance. Unfortunately these days that is a difficult task, as rates continue to increase higher year in and out without any reason from your carrier. There is hope though, as there are steps you can take to keep your car insurance rates as low as possible.

Try to follow these 3 steps to keep your rate where it belongs.

Watch Your Credit
Most insurers use a customer’s credit history or credit score when determining their premium. Research has shown that drivers with good credit or a high credit score number are responsible, cautious, and less likely to file a claim. In turn, having poor credit or a low score tells an insurance company that you are under financial stress and are more likely to take risks. One of the worst things you can do is stop paying your insurance bill — even if you’re getting ready to switch companies. Missing a payment or letting your auto policy lapse not only puts you at risk if you have an accident, it can lower your credit score and make it more expensive to get car insurance.

Drive Slower
If you want to keep your car insurance rate as low as possible take your time and be a safe driver. This may seem obvious but the worst thing you can do is to have an at-fault claim or a speeding ticket. And most accidents and speeding tickets happen when the driver is in a hurry. Give yourself enough time. Stay off your phone. Don’t text. And don’t fiddle around with your GPS. Spend the extra minute. Pull over and take care of it. It could save more than a few hundred dollars on your insurance. It could save someone’s life.

Shop Around
The cost of car insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars or more from one company to the next for the same coverage. Every company operates differently. Some sell direct to consumers.  And just as rates vary, so does the level of features and service. While a company includes emergency roadside assistance at no additional charge, others give you a bare-boned policy and little more. Just because your insurance company gave you the best rate a few years ago doesn’t mean they’re giving you the best rate now. To be sure you’re getting the price and quality you deserve, you should meet with your independent insurance agent yearly to discuss your auto insurance coverage and company options based on his knowledge of the marketplace.
Stamm, Stuart and Bybee is an Independent insurance agency in South East Portland area for over 40 years.

Home Insurance Quotes

Getting various home insurance quotes can be very eye opening. By getting quotes from different companies you will be able to tell which company is going to offer the best price and coverage for you.

Many home owners can get frustrated by asking for a quote, especially on line, as there are so many insurance carriers willing to submit via the web. It can be confusing as not only is the cost important but so are the coverage limits that you need to be aware of.

So to start we would suggest you need to choose a few home insurance companies that seem reputable and respectable and worth looking into. The best way to consolidate this search is to get your quotes from an independent agent. Independent insurance agents usually represent 5-10 different companies, all of which are willing and able to provide the proper policies and coverage.

Remember that this home insurance quote is going to be based on the specific information that you have offered to the company, and may not be the policy you need. So you have to remember this and know that if you do choose to go through this company, the price that you end up paying may be higher or lower.
It all depends on the specific information you have submitted, like age of your home, construction material, do you have a wood or gas stove, distance to the nearest fire or police station and the value of your home contents like furniture or valuables.

The idea of getting these quotes is to help you in your decision making. It also allows you to compare prices along with the amount of coverage that best fits your situation.

Take these home insurance quotes seriously and compare other factors as well. Remember when you get home insurance it is not something that you are going to change on a regular basis. You want to find a good company that you can stick with for a long time and trust that they will service your needs and claims on a timely basis.

The Real World of Insurance

Who has turned on a TV in the last 5 years and not been inundated with reality TV show options. Candid camera actually began the genre in the early 1950’s but we have all seen several more since then. The list is lengthy but includes smash hits of every shape and style including American Chopper, the Bachelor, Flipping Out, Last Comic Standing, Hell’s Kitchen, and the mega hits; Dancing with the Stars and American Idol.

All have the same universal script and cast of characters. Whether Hollywood stars or regular folks, they are submitted to task, lifestyle, choice, skill or environment that lets us TV watchers see life unfold before our eyes. The good, bad and ugly of it keeps us coming back as there is no script or plot line and we never know from episode to the next what is going to happen. Unfortunately for some of us, that is the same story with our Insurance policies, and agents who promised us they would be there for us when we had a problem. Reality hits and the resulting circumstances take us and them by surprise and we are left holding the bag or liability.

The true reality is that does not have to happen to you. When you shop for car, home or health insurance, you are also shopping for the agent you feel you can trust. Price is definitely a driving force for making your decision but make sure you can trust and believe in the agent who represents you! Good questions to ask are; how long have they been in business, are they willing to give you referrals from their other customers, do they represent multiple companies that offer more options for your insurance needs, have they come out and actually looked at your house or car to know exactly what coverage’s you need? You do not need to feel lost or unappreciated in buying your insurance.
Stamm, Stuart and Bybee is an Independent Insurance agency in Southeast Portland.

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