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To all our small business owners: you’ve gotta have insurance

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) To all of our small business owners: you should know what kind of insurance you need and how to get it.

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You know you should have insurance, but you don’t know why. You’re running a small business and you have at least ten other things on the brain besides what type of risk mitigation measures you need to put in place. Besides, the cost of the monthly premium alone could be put to much better use in the rest of the budget. Any of these sound familiar?

Small business insurance is a necessity for conducting protected business activities. It may sound hyperbolic, but not having it could cause your not just your whole business to collapse, but also bankrupt you in the process. This scary reality can be avoided by choosing to invest in the correct coverage for your needs. The federal Small Business Administration (SBA) states that a good rule of thumb is to “insure against things that you could not pay for on your own.”

Here’s a quick rundown of the types of policies you could choose for your small business.

General Liability
According to insurance provider Hartford Fire Insurance Co, general liability insurance “helps protect your business from liability in the form of property damage claims, bodily injury claims, and/or personal and advertising injury claims that could put your business’s assets at risk.“ Consider general liability insurance as the first line of defense that can cover many different types of claims, but lacks some nuances that you may discover you need for your specific business.

Product Liability
Product liability is insurance that covers a business that manufactures or distributes a product. This type of coverage can be useful from individuals who make their own cosmetics to sell on Etsy or merely sells on the behalf of others. If a product caused harm to someone who purchased it, product liability would cover you.

Professional Liability
Professional liability is for the business that provides a specific service instead of a good. Whether you’re a financial consultant or a certified masseuse, if you don’t have professional liability insurance, you could be put at financial risk if a customer who used your service sues you. This type of coverage insures you against the financial loss of malpractice, negligence, and errors that a customer can receive if they purchased services from you.

Home-Based Business
52 percent of all businesses in the United States are run from home. It makes sense that a specific subset of insurance was developed for individuals with this particular need area. This type of insurance is added as a rider on top of a homeowner policy that adds specific language to cover equipment and if third-party (i.e. not the homeowner) becomes injured while at the home based business.

These are the four general areas of applicable small business insurance. Of course, there are many more types that you may need like workers compensation or auto liability. The price of all these coverage areas can be affected by the type of industry your business is in, as well as the number employees that work for you.

By now, the dollar signs may be ticking up in your head. Take a deep breath. The best way to deal with the cost of a good policy is to decrease your risk areas as much as possible and consider the amount of deductible you’d be willing to pay. The SBA recommends assessing your liability annually before renewing policies, and that’s a great way to start this process for the first time. Get with a licensed agent before making any policy decisions and rest assured, the cost of coverage will be small in comparison to the cost of trying to cover a catastrophic event out of pocket.

I’m not an insurance underwriter/broker and this story is not to substitute consultation with a real-life trained insurance agent. With that in mind, go find your nearest small business insurance broker or contact your Chamber of Commerce for assistance.

Alexandra Bohannon has a Master of Public Administration degree from University of Oklahoma with a concentration in public policy. She is currently based in Oklahoma City, working as a freelance filmmaker, writer, and podcaster. Alexandra loves playing Dungeons and Dragons and is a diehard Trekkie.

Business Entrepreneur

How to choose the right software for your business

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) What are the best software options for your company? Well, we have a list of suggestions and questions to help you determine what is best for you.

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It’s almost impossible to run a successful modern business without some kind of software to help you stay productive and operate efficiently. There are millions of companies and even more independent developers working hard to produce new software products and services for the businesses of the world, so to say that choosing the right software is intimidating is putting it lightly.

Fortunately, your decisions will become much easier with a handful of decision-making rubrics.

Determining Your Core Needs

First, you need to decide which types of software you really need. For most businesses, these are the most fundamental categories:

  • Proposal software. Customer acquisition starts and ends with effective proposals, which is why you need proposal software that helps you create, send, and track the status of your sales documents.
  • Lead generation and sales. You’ll also want the support of lead generation and sales software, including customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. These help you identify and track prospects throughout the sales process.
  • Marketing and advertising. Marketing and advertising platforms help you plan and implement your campaigns, but even more importantly—they help you track your results.
  • Finance and accounting. With finance and accounting software, you’ll track accounts payable and receivable, and countless variables influencing the financial health of your company.
  • Supply chain and logistics. Certain types of businesses require support when it comes to supply chain management and logistics—and software can help.
  • Productivity and tracking. Some software products, including time trackers and project management platforms, focus on improving productivity and tracking employee actions.
  • Comprehensive analytics. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and other “big picture” software products attempt to provide you with comprehensive analytics related to your business’s performance.

Key Factors to Consider

From there, you’ll need to choose a software product in each necessary category—or try to find one that covers all categories simultaneously. When reviewing the thousands (if not millions) of viable options, keep these factors in mind:

    • Core features/functionality. Similar products in a given niche can have radically different sets of features. It’s tempting to go with the most robust product in all cases, but superfluous features and functionality can present their own kind of problem.
    • Integrations. If you use a number of different software products, you’ll need some way to get them to work together. Prioritize products that make it easy to integrate with others—especially ones you’re already using.
    • Intuitiveness/learnability. Software should be intuitive and easy to learn. Not only will this cut down on the amount of training and education you have to provide employees, but it will also reduce the possibilities of platform misuse in the future.
    • Customizability/flexibility. Out-of-the-box software products work well for many customers, but they may not suit your current or future needs precisely. Platforms with greater customizability and flexibility are favorable.
    • Security. If you’re handling sensitive data (and most businesses will be), it’s vital to have a software developed with security in mind. There should be multiple layers of security in place, and ample settings for you to tightly control accessibility.
    • Ongoing developer support. Your chosen software might be impressive today, but how is it going to look in three years? It’s ideal to choose a product that features ongoing developer support, with the potential for more features and better functionality in the near and distant future.
    • Customer support. If you have an issue with the app, will someone be available to help you? Good customer service can elevate the value of otherwise average apps.
    • Price. Finally, you’ll need to consider price. The best apps will often have a price that matches their quality; it’s up to you to decide whether the extra expense is worth it.

Read about each product as you conduct your research, and pay close attention to reviews and testimonials from past customers. Additionally, most software companies are happy to offer free demos and trials, so you can get some firsthand experience before finalizing your decision. Take them up on the offer.

Finding the Balance

It may seem like purchasing or subscribing to new software products will always improve your business fundamentals, but this isn’t always the case. If you become bogged down with too many apps and services, it’s going to make operations more confusing for your staff, decrease consistency, and drain your budget dry at the same time. Instead, try to keep your systems as simplified and straightforward as possible, while still getting all the services you need.

You won’t find or implement the perfect suite of software products for your business overnight. It’s going to take weeks, if not months of research, free trials, and in-house experiments. Remain patient, and don’t be afraid to cut your losses on products that aren’t working the way you originally intended.

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Business Entrepreneur

‘Small’ business was once a stigma, but is now a growing point of pride

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Small businesses make up the majority of companies, employers, and money makers of the American economy, that’s something to be proud of.

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Prior to the Industrial Revolution, all businesses were small businesses. Independent craftsmen served communities with vital services. Small merchants opened shops to provide the community with goods. Lawyers, doctors, and other professionals hung out a shingle to offer their services to neighbors. Small businesses were the norm. Some of the most beloved American companies started out local. John Deere, Harley Davidson, and King Arthur Flour, all got their start as small businesses.

Business changes led to a attitude change

It wasn’t until manufacturing allowed businesses to scale and produce more efficiently that the idea of big business became more important. Post-World War II, the idea of a small business became derogatory. It was the age of big government. Media was growing. Everyone wanted to be on top. Small businesses took a back seat as people moved from rural to urban communities. Small business growth plateaued for a number of years in the mid-20th century. Fortunately, the stigma of small business is fading.

Small businesses are the backbone of the economy

According to the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, the “American business is overwhelmingly small business.” In 2016, 99.7% of firms in American had fewer than 500 workers. Firms with 20 workers or less accounted for 89.0% of the 5.6 million employer firms. The SBE also reports that “Small businesses accounted for 61.8% of net new jobs from the first quarter of 1993 until the third quarter of 2016.” Small businesses account for a huge portion of innovation and growth in today’s economy.

Modern consumers support small businesses

According to a Guidant Financial survey, the most common reason for opening a small business is to be your own boss. Small business owners are also dissatisfied with corporate America. Consumers also want to support small businesses. SCORE reports that 91% of Americans patronize a small business at least once a week. Almost half of Americans (47%) frequent small businesses 2 to 4 times a week.

Be proud of small business status

Small businesses are the innovators of tomorrow. Your neighbors want to support small businesses, knowing that their tax dollars stay in the community, and that they’re creating opportunities within their own city. Your small business status isn’t a slight. It’s a source of pride in today’s economy. Celebrate the fact that you’ve stepped out on your own in uncertain times. Celebrate the dirt under your fingernails, literally, or figuratively, that made you take a risk to do what mattered to you.

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Business Entrepreneur

Will startups ever fully return to offices?

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Founders Forum survey seeks to understand how early-stage startups are changing their workplace strategy to adapt to our new COVID-19 controlled world.

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Startups in the tech industry are notorious for growing their businesses from their bedrooms, coffee shops, and mom’s basement. What more do you need when you have a phone, a computer, and a strong Internet connection? Besides of course, an idea and a lot of nerve.

Evidently, a lot more, hence the burgeoning coworking space industry that has surged in the United States in recent years. Founders have flocked to shared workspaces to find employees, mentors, and exchange ideas and resources with other startups. Creating a shared space to build community amongst like-minded individuals makes a lot of sense.

Unfortunately, the entire premise of the physical setup of this community has been challenged by the coronavirus. Founders have been driven back to their homes and basements, but have not lost their hunger for community.

That’s why the UK-based entrepreneur community Founders Forum is conducting a comprehensive study about the future of work for startups. “Founders are having to make critical decisions about their return to work strategy in isolation,” Founders Forum Executive Chairman and co-Founder Brent Hoberman told TechCrunch. The survey seeks to understand what founders are thinking about remote work strategies and, use of office space going forward.

As we begin to grapple with the increasingly real scenario where people will have to endure waves of quarantine as we wait for an immunity breakthrough, startups, SMBs, and tech giants alike are reconsidering their daily work structures to adapt to a new reality. Large companies like Facebook, Spotify, and Twitter have announced sweeping changes like indefinite work from home options for certain employees. This survey seeks to gather the yet-to-be-explored ideas from the early stage startup community.

In the entrepreneurial spirit of community and collaboration, the fundamental question at play here is, “How are other founders changing their workplace strategy?” The survey will also attempt to shed light on how employees’ various remote work environments may influence their point of view on strategies for moving forward.

Founders can take the survey here. TechCrunch will publish the results.

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