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Steps all storm damage victims should take

Thousands of homeowners have storm damage from Friday’s storms, and are learning from the American Homeowners Foundation how to best recover.

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lightning strikes freak storm june 29, 2012

lightning strikes freak storm june 29, 2012

The “freak storm” on the Eastern seaboard

The American Homeowners Foundation (AHF), has outlined the steps that the thousands of homeowners “whose homes were damaged by the freak June 29 storm that struck the eastern U.S.” should take.

The AHF advises homeowners to carefully document all damage with photographs in order to prove damages to insurance adjusters and the IRS if eligible for tax deductions as a result of uninsured losses. They also advise homeowners to contact their homeowners insurance company immediately to understand what is and is not covered, noting that in some cases, for example, damage from a falling tree is typically covered, but the removal of a tree in your yard without damaging a home may not be covered.

Flood coverage

Flood coverage is often misunderstood, says the AHF. “Most standard flood insurance only covers damage caused by rising waters from a river, creek, lake or pond. It doesn’t cover such things as water backups caused by overflowing drain pipes, or when the drain in a basement stairwell gets clogged with debris, causing water to fill the stairwell and come in under the basement door.”

“That once happened to me during a big storm,” said AHF President Bruce Hahn. “After I learned that the extensive damage to our finished basement was not covered by our insurance policy, I reconsidered how much I could afford to spend out of my own pocket to repair the damage.” Homeowners shouldn’t commit to expensive repairs until they learn what is covered and what isn’t, and the terms of the coverage of things that are.

Finding a qualified contractor

Finding a qualified contractor after a major event like the recent storms is another challenge, as rates tend to go up with demand, and con men abound. Homeowners can use technologies like HouseFix to check contractors’ reputations, and even avoid sticker shock by getting price ranges through Redbeacon which also allows users to take a photo of damage and get bids over their device from local contractors.

AHF advises that contractor credentials should be checked carefully, particularly their license status, and whether or not they are insured for worker’s compensation, property, and personal liability, adding that it is perfectly acceptable to ask for a copy of their insurance certificate and a list of references on similar jobs. The nonprofit asserts that belonging to trade organizations like the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, or the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers Council “is a sign of commitment to their trade and to professionalism.”

Homeowners should get a comprehensive bid, detailing as many of the specifications as possible, the AHF notes, and that homeowners should try to get two or three bids where possible. Use tools like Redbeacon mentioned previously, or MinuteBid (not a free service, completely designed for landlords, but could easily be used by consumers) to manage the bidding process, lest you be married to a fax machine.

“One of the most important suggestions is to use a comprehensive written contract,” the AHF advises. “It will greatly reduce the likelihood of disputes with your contractor. Make sure the contract covers the description of the project, timetable, payment schedule, etc., and has general provisions defining the responsibility of the contractor and the subcontractors, defects and correction, change order procedures, warranties, right to termination, and alternative dispute settlement mechanisms (since many of the costs of lawsuits are for legal fees, homeowners and contractors will almost always be better off with mediation, conciliation, and/or binding arbitration clauses should a disagreement arise). Some contractors use their own standard contract forms, but read the provisions carefully before signing them. If you feel some of the provisions in their contract are unreasonable, ask them to make reasonable modifications.”

Never hire a contractor by signing a brief proposal or worse yet, on a handshake, the nonprofit notes. You can also hire an attorney to draw up a contract that includes the aforementioned provisions to protect you. Another alternative is to use the American Homeowners Foundation’s standard six page remodeling and repair contract, which contains these protections and fill in the blank areas for the specifics of your job.

The takeaway

Do your homework, protect yourself, and document everything along the way, and this terrible storm damage situation will go as smoothly as possible and be over before you know it.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

Business News

Etsy is trying on second-hand fashion with purchase of Depop

(BUSINESS NEWS) With the younger generation moving away from fast fashion, it makes sense that Etsy has acquired one of the most popular Gen Z second hand apps.

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Woman looking at a rack of clothes in a second hand thrift store

Over the last few years, sustainable shopping has been a bullet point in the large-scale topic of the environment. Burning through clothing by disposing of old clothing and shopping from places specializing in “fast fashion” is causing damage to the earth.

According to the UN Environment Programme, the fashion industry is the second largest consumer of water and is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined.

As a result, shopping second hand has become more popular, as opposed to mass-produced fast fashion. Online platforms like Poshmark and ThredUp have grown tremendously over the last 3 to 5 years.

Now, Etsy is getting in on the resale action through its acquisition of Depop – a second hand fashion app that allows for the buying and selling of used fashion items.

Etsy paid $1.6 billion to acquire the UK-founded company, which has attracted a younger, Gen Z-based audience due to its social media use and messaging on shopping in an ethical and environmentally-friendly fashion.

Etsy CEO Josh Silverman said the company was “thrilled” to be adding what it believes to be the “resale home for Gen Z consumers” to Etsy. Depop has approximately 30 million registered users spanning 150 countries.

“Depop is a vibrant, two-sided marketplace with a passionate community, a highly-differentiated offering of unique items, and we believe significant potential to further scale,” Silverman said in a statement Wednesday.

“We see significant opportunities for shared expertise and growth synergies across what will now be a tremendous ‘house of brands’ portfolio of individually distinct, and very special, ecommerce brands.”

Due to the COVID-related e-commerce boom, shares of Etsy have more than doubled in the last year. The stock was up about 6.7% Wednesday afternoon.

According to data from Crunchbase, Depop had raised a total of $105.6 million from investors including General Atlantic, Creandum, Balderton Capital, Octopus Ventures and Klarna CEO and co-founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski, prior to their agreement with Etsy.

With fashion being so cyclical, it may be safe to say that second hand will never fully go out of style.

What are your thoughts on resale apps being the answer to fast fashion woes? Let us know in the comments.

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As masks become optional, businesses find themselves stuck in the middle

(BUSINESS NEWS) One liquor store’s decision on mask policy following changes in local laws has become a recurring story throughout the nation.

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Woman in front of small business with two children, all wearing face masks

The American mask debate has comprised a whirlwind of clashing political ideologies, legal dilemmas, and personal agendas, with businesses placed directly in the middle of the storm. As the pandemic continues to run its course, a disparity in state mandates and legislation is only serving to increase the strain on these establishments.

With increased access to vaccines and several states rolling back their COVID guidance, the option to wear—or not wear—masks is becoming more discretionary, with businesses often having the final say in whether or not they expect masks to be used on their premises. One such business, a liquor store, posted a notice regarding their staff’s decision to continue wearing masks:

“In accordance with Johnson County mandates: Masks are now optional. Please do not berate, verbally assault, or otherwise attack the staff over their choice to continue wearing masks.”

The notice went on to say, “It is painfully depressing we have to make this request.”

That last line epitomizes many business owners’ stances. Places across the country have started allowing customers to discard their masks with proof of vaccination, but if employees choose to keep their masks for the time being, it’s difficult for clients not to view it as a kind of political statement—despite their decisions often being corroborated by local laws.

And, as long as businesses continue to operate within the confines of those laws, their decisions should be free from public scrutiny.

Sadly, that’s not what’s happening as evidenced by the notice posted by the liquor store in Johnson County. The same disparity that allows for some freedom despite COVID still being present in many Americans’ lives often leaves those who choose not to wear masks to conclude that those who do wear them are being judgmental or unnecessarily cautious.

Those judgements work in reverse as well, with businesses who allow their employees to work maskless facing criticism from masked clients. It seems that the freedom to choose—something for which people strongly advocated throughout the pandemic—continues to cause separation.

As businesses change or adapt their regulations to fit state mandates and employee (and customer) concerns, everyone would do well to remember that the decisions these establishments make are usually meant to affect some kind of positive work environment—not to welcome harassment and abuse.

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Business News

You should apply to be on a board – why and how

(BUSINESS NEWS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.

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board of directors

What?
What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”

Why?
It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.

We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.

Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:

1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.

As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.

When?
NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).

The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.

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