The four types of insurance most businesses need

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Small- and medium-size businesses have a lot of options when it comes to insurance. But there are four basic types of insurance policies that most businesses need to have, even if they’re the smallest of companies:

Property insurance. This type of insurance covers buildings as well as personal property such as office furniture, inventory, computers and machinery.

Liability insurance. Having enough liability coverage is important for a growing company. Any  business can be sued. A client could sue after a fall in your office. A customer could file a lawsuit claiming a product is defective. Liability insurance can help a business prevent a financial disaster in the event of a lawsuit.

Auto insurance. Cars driven for your business should be covered under a separate, commercial auto insurance policy.

Workers compensation insurance. Nearly all states require businesses that meet certain size thresholds to have workers compensation insurance in the event an employee is injured or dies on the job.

Questions? We would be glad to review your company’s insurance needs.

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Make this the year to get prepared

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Each year, millions of families are impacted by disaster. Yet many of us are still unprepared. So why not make this the year you finally make being prepared a priority?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is trying to make it easier to get prepared for a wide range of emergencies and disasters. Through the Resolve to Be Ready campaign sponsored by Ready.gov and FEMA, you can learn what it takes to prepare your family for natural disasters, power outages and other unpredictable events. Many families have taken few steps to get prepared because the process seems so time-consuming and costly. But in reality, even small steps that cost little or nothing at all can make a huge difference when disaster hits.

Want to learn more? Check out the Resolve to Be Ready web site. Your insurance provider can be a valuable partner in any preparedness effort. Give us a call today!

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Cost-effective ways to prevent a fire at your business

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Each year, tens of thousands of small businesses cope with damage from fires. Sadly, a number of these companies never re-open. That’s why taking steps to reduce the risk of fire at your business is such a smart thing to do. But it also can save you money.

Fire risk is one of a number of factors that plays a role in how much you’ll pay to insure your enterprise. And fire-prevention efforts can pay off in lower insurance premiums. The good news? Reducing your company’s risk of fire isn’t as time-consuming or expensive as you may think. Here are some of the best steps a business can take:

Install and maintain fire safety equipment. Many small business owners and managers are too busy to think much about fire prevention. At a minimum, you’ll want smoke alarms with batteries that are changed twice yearly. You’ll also want fire extinguishers on hand. (Make sure you and your employees know how to use them.) Your insurance agent can help you determine whether additional fire-prevention measures, such as sprinklers, are needed or if optional upgrades that can earn you a discount on your policy are worth the upfront investment.

Store chemicals carefully. Make sure you’re storing all chemicals, including the flammable variety, carefully. Did you know that gas cans can explode in certain situations?

De-clutter. Dispose of boxes and trash promptly. A pile of boxes can provide the fuel for a fast-moving fire. Remove clutter from hallways and exits.

Have an electrician review your wiring. If you have purchased or are leasing an older building, it may be wise to have an electrician inspect it for any faulty wiring or other potential fire hazards.

While having fire drills may be the last thing on your mind, they can help increase the likelihood that everyone makes it outside your building safely in the event of a fire. Do your employees know what they should do if there’s a fire? Which exit should they use? Periodic reminders can help make sure everyone knows what to do – and that they get out safely – in the event of a fire.

Ask questions. We can help identify a number of risks your business can face each day and make sure you’re adequately insured. Have any questions? We would be glad to answer them!

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Remodeling? Time to call your insurance company

19685244_SAre you planning on doing some home remodeling? You’re not alone. Many Americans this year are planning a variety of interior and exterior improvement projects, from minor cosmetic changes to major overhauls. Whether you’re getting that new kitchen you’ve always wanted or investing in a new roof, making a call to your insurance company before work begins is always a good idea. Here’s why:

You want to make sure you’re covered during construction. Whether you’re doing the work yourself or having someone else do it, chances are you’ll be temporarily storing some expensive materials such as tile, wood flooring and granite, along with equipment. Your insurance company can help you determine whether you’re adequately insured while work is being done. You’ll want to make sure, of course, that any contractors who work in your home are adequately bonded and insured.

You want to make sure you have the right coverage after your project is completed. If the cost to rebuild your home has changed substantially after remodeling, you’ll want to adjust your coverage. If you added a feature such as a swimming pool or hot tub, you may want to increase your liability coverage or consider purchasing an umbrella policy. Depending on the upgrades, you may even be eligible for a discount.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to keep all receipts and contracts and take photos or video of the work being done and what your home looks like after it’s finished. Questions? Give us a call. We are glad to help.

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A company policy to promote safe driving

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Do your employees drive to business meetings or to meet with customers? Whether employees are driving their own vehicle or a company car, more companies are putting safe driving policies into place. Why? More people are driving distracted these days, and a business could be held liable for an accident caused by an employee who isn’t driving safely.
It’s important that companies be clear about what type of behavior is expected by their employees behind the wheel. At the very least, you’ll want employees to be aware of the need to strictly follow any federal and state driving laws. Beyond that, you may want to spell out what you definitely don’t want them doing while driving. Once you’ve put together a plan, provide each employee with your driving rules and consider having them sign the document to indicate that they understand what’s expected of them behind the wheel. Here are some suggestions from the Insurance Information Institute:
Limit (or ban!) cell phone use on the road.  To be safe, you may want to make it clear to employees that they are not to talk on a cell phone or text while they are driving on business.
Let voicemail do its work. Let employees know you do not want them to initiate calls while they are driving or answer any incoming calls. Let them know that all incoming calls – even from the boss – go to voicemail while driving.
Ban distracted driving. We all know that texting while driving is dangerous. But distracted driving – from talking on a cell phone to eating or drinking behind the wheel – causes thousands of injuries and deaths each year as well. So does shaving, putting on makeup and combing your hair from behind the wheel.
Promote courteous driving. Have you ever been cut off in traffic by a car with a business name on the side? If your employees drive cars with your company’s name on them, make sure they know that rude driving can cost you business.
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What to do if your brakes fail

Brake failure can happen at any time and can be a pretty scary and nerve-wracking experience for drivers, especially if you’re on the highway. But there are some steps you can take to bring your vehicle to a stop without getting into a serious crash.

Don’t panic. Also, don’t overreact. Do not shut the engine off. If you do, you will lose your power steering. As soon as you notice signs of brake failure take your foot off the gas pedal. Try and move into the right lane and then work your way toward the shoulder of the road. Shifting into a lower gear allows the engine to slow the car down.

Pump the brakes. By pumping the brakes you may be able to build some pressure back up to help you stop the car. Once you have pumped the brakes a few times, quickly squeeze the brakes to the floor. The maneuver may bring your vehicle to a stop.

Hand brake in a carUse the emergency brake. Depending on the make of your vehicle, you may be able to pull the handle up or push down on the pedal. Don’t push or pull too quickly, as your tires will lock up. If you have room to do so, sharply steer from side to side, which will generate friction and help slow your car down. However, don’t do this if you are in traffic.

If you come across a runaway truck ramp or an incline, steer towards it as it may slow your car down. You can also use the guardrails or cement highway dividers to break your speed as they are designed to make contact with your wheels. Driving through dirt or gravel will also act as a break to slow your vehicle.

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A big year for the unexpected

19698951_SThere’s no doubt about it — 2013 was a big year for the unexpected. Who can forget all the weather-related setbacks that businesses had to endure last year? Bombing and shooting tragedies shocked communities nationwide. Even the 2013 Super Bowl will forever be remembered for the surprising stadium blackout that left players, fans and viewers in the dark. There’s a lot businesses can learn from last year about being prepared in 2014. Here are some of the most important lessons:

Be prepared for floods. Did you know that flooding led to disaster declarations in over half a dozen states last year? Many businesses forgo flood insurance, even though they could be wiped out in the event of a flood. Make a pledge to find out if flood insurance makes sense for your business. We can help!

Plan for a wide variety of emergencies. Last year was an epic year for disasters and emergencies. But it wasn’t only nature that impacted businesses in a big way. The tragic shootings in Washington, DC this year shocked us all. So did the bombings in Boston. That’s why it’s important to plan for a variety of disasters and emergencies.

Don’t underestimate risk. Much of the flooding in 2013 occurred in low-risk areas and parts of the country with no prior flooding problems. And a new study shows that the frequency and severity of tornadoes are actually much more widespread than once believed. Your insurance carrier can help you determine your company’s risk for flooding and severe weather to help make sure you’re adequately insured.

Don’t forget the flu. A massive flu outbreak impacted more than 41 states in January 2013. This year, take steps to protect your business and your employees from flu-related absenteeism in the cold-weather months.

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Financial resolutions: Little efforts can lead to big results

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It’s that time of year to think about goals for the year ahead. Why not make a few that could help you and your family improve your finances? Here are some suggestions:

Re-examine major spending categories. Make a commitment to examine your major spending categories, including cellphone, cable service and utilities. Are you paying for any features or time you aren’t using? Could you go with a cheaper plan? What about your land line – do you really need it? Call your service providers and see if they have any less-expensive plans, promotions or ideas to help you save money. Shop around or ask for a better rate from the companies you regularly pay money to.

Look at where the pennies are going. Those bi-weekly trips to Starbucks and the office vending machine, lunches out, and occasional recreational shopping sprees all add up. Quitting cold turkey may not work, though. Scale back gradually. And remember it’s still important to enjoy a splurge now and then.

Put savings on autopilot. Consider making a commitment this year to enroll in or expand your participation in automatic savings plans. Think about enrolling in your employer’s 401(k) plan, making sure to take advantage of any match that’s offered. Also consider having an amount from your paycheck automatically diverted into a savings account or other savings vehicle. If your employer doesn’t offer this option, have an amount automatically transferred each month from checking to savings. Many families start saving for the holidays in January and by fall, have enough money set aside to buy presents come Christmastime. Others use automatic savings plans to accumulate three to six month’s worth of living expenses in an emergency savings account. With automatic savings plans, you won’t forget to write that check. And you’ll be surprised just how quickly automatic savings add up.

Lay off the credit cards. Carrying a credit card balance with a double-digit interest rate is a big wealth-zapper. Plus, study after study has shown that consumers who pay with plastic spend more than those who use cash. Make a plan to pay down credit card debt. One way to do this is bringing only cash to the store. Many financial advisers believe ditching credit card debt should be the first financial priority for families.

Even seemingly small resolutions, such as bringing your own lunch to work instead of going out each day, can save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a year. Adopt a few financial resolutions this year and you’ll be surprised at how much progress you can make by this time next year!

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Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Legume and Dish, two of Pittsburgh’s Five Restaurants that SIZZLE

Dish and Legume, along with Everyday Noodles, Cure, and Fukuda have been named Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Restaurants “Five Restaurants that sizzle”

“These would be restaurants that don’t copy trends from notable restaurants in bigger cities with different demographics. They would have a cohesive, consistent vision. They would display chefs’ years of experience, many mentors, hard work and the influence of travel. They would demonstrate a deep understanding of how to cook as well as a commitment to quality. And for each restaurant, food is rooted in a genre that speaks to Pittsburgh diners.”

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Legume and Butterjoint - 214 N. Craig St., Oakland.

 www.legumebistro.com; 412-621-2700

Tagliatelle ai Funghi : Fresh tagliatelle with Portobello, shiitake and cremini mushrooms in extra virgin and garlic. Spinach, basil and parmiggiano Reggiano.

Dish Osteria and Bar; Tagliatelle ai Funghi : Fresh tagliatelle with Portobello, shiitake and cremini mushrooms in extra virgin and garlic. Spinach, basil and parmiggiano Reggiano.

Dish Osteria and Bar - 128 S. 17th St., South Side.

 www.dishosteria.com; 412-390-2012

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/life/dining/2013/12/22/Five-Pittsburgh-restaurants-that-sizzle-Everyday-Noodles-C ure-Legume-Fukuda-and-Dish/stories/201312220033#ixzz2oci1SPjA

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Forecasting a key to managing business risk

19339924_SDo you ever wish you could forecast the business climate with greater accuracy?

There will always be those astute business owners who accurately call the next play ahead of their competitors. Oddly enough, the most inaccurate forecasts happen in times of less upheaval, because it’s human nature to assume a steady ship will stay on course. But doing some business forecasting (and planning for bad times) when times are good is a great way to help protect your business. Here are four areas you may want to focus on when planning for your business:

  1. Cyber security. Managing a digital identity is paramount. What’s the meaning of a business reputation if hackers can hijack yours? Three-quarters of cyber attacks target businesses with less than 500 employees and the average cost of the attack was $190,000. That’s according to the Department of Homeland Security [PDF]. Do your due diligence to ward off those attacks. Bring in an expert to close security holes. And consider a special insurance policy to cover technology-related risks.
  2. Extreme weather and natural disasters. Superstorm Sandy ran up a $20 billion bill for taxpayers and businesses, and she wasn’t alone in her fury. In 2011 an aggregate of over two-dozen natural disasters tallied up to an astronomical price tag for Americans. Take steps now to ensure your business has a disaster game plan in place. And talk to us about making sure you’re covered against floods or earthquakes, both of which aren’t covered under standard business insurance policies. We can help you forecast which types of disasters are most likely to affect your business.
  3. Mobile security. Around nine out of 10 U.S. companies surveyed admitted they failed to develop security standards for mobile phones. Mobile wallets are here to stay and they are predicted to make a huge impact on consumer behavior. Is your business ready for what promises to be the biggest change in consumer transactions since the credit card reshaped the marketplace decades ago?
  4. Changing demographics. The ballooning population of those with infirmities will present new challenges as most people think Baby Boomers are health-conscious and active. That’s a very inaccurate picture. We’ll likely see millions of diabetics and other aging Americans suffering from a multitude of lifestyle-induced disease. Does your company have a wellness plan to help keep health insurance costs under control? Do you have a plan for dealing with the relentless increase in health insurance premiums over time?

Many businesses don’t survive because of a lack of forecasting and planning. Make some time now so that yours isn’t one of them!

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