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Know About Small Business Liability Insurance

Every business, whether it is big or small, wants to survive, sustain and make profits. But business of any type or size is unpredictable and may get into losses due to unwanted or unexpected circumstances like natural calamities, fire, theft or other riots. It is very difficult for small businesses to protect their occupation or business if they face adverse situations with their meager budgets. Many small businesses perish as they fail to cover these losses. So, it is very important for businesses to have a risk management system for their business to protect themselves against unforeseen losses.

Insurance, considered as a critical part of the risk management system is the only way for small businesses to protect themselves. Today, there are many types of insurance policies, of which Liability Insurance is considered to be the best one for small businesses as it provides compensation for the fines associated with liability cases.

It covers following risks:
Liability insurance protects a small business from loss or damage to the maximum extent. Business liability insurance options are very useful for businesses as they cover the business property, claims for injuries by employees and visitors, employee compensation and many more. Some of the common types of liability insurance for small businesses and their coverage are explained below in detail.

Business property insurance
Business Property Insurance, as the name itself indicates covers the business property of the small business. Its coverage includes the building or buildings in which you do business, carpeting, curtains, outdoor signs, property of others etc. If you choose a right business insurance property, it covers all the important equipment such as computers, machinery, supplies, stock etc.

Professional indemnity insurance
Professional Indemnity Insurance, also called as Professional Liability Insurance or Errors and Omissions’ liability insurance, is an extremely important consideration for small professional businesses that are in service industry. They are exposed to a wide range of claims that may include areas such as errors, omissions, professional neglect, falsehood, breach of confidentiality etc. This insurance protects businesses from the claims made by clients against the delivery of poor service. This type of insurance is generally purchased by professionals such as a doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, brokers, financial advisers, accountants, consultants, building contractors, and attorneys etc. who run their own business.

Product insurance
Product insurance or Product Liability Insurance protects the business owners from the lawsuits filed against them for manufacturing or producing defective products. This type of insurance is very useful for small scale manufacturers or importers. This liability insurance protects small businesses in case a person is injured or died using a product manufactured or developed by the business.

Employment practices liability coverage
Employment Practices Liability Insurance covers small businesses against claims by employees or business associates when their legal rights are violated. This insurance policy protects employers against breach of employment contract, deprivation of career opportunity, discrimination, mismanagement of employee benefit plans, negligent evaluation, sexual harassment, wrongful discipline or termination etc.

Excess liability coverage
Excess Liability Insurance, also called as Umbrella Liability Insurance or Commercial umbrella insurance provides additional protection to any of several other policies that a small business might hold. It protects businesses when an accident or similar claim exceeds the amount of their existing liability coverage, which may include medical costs or other claim payments.

Workers’ compensation insurance
When an employee gets injured at the workplace, it is the employer who is responsible for the payment of medical bills. Sometimes these medical bills may run into thousands of dollars, which can be very burdensome for the small business owners to pay. The workers’ compensation insurance kicks in during these kinds of situations. The workers’ compensation policy provides wage replacement, medical, and rehabilitation benefits to the employees who get injured on the job.

Other insurance
Apart from the above mentioned insurance policies, there are many other insurance policies that help small businesses such as:
• Auto Insurance – to cover the company vehicles,
• Health Insurance – to protect employees when they are sick,
• Crime Insurance – to protect business against employee fraud,
• Key Employee Insurance – to protect small business against the loss of their key employee etc.

All businesses may not need the same type of insurance. In order to determine a perfect liability coverage for your business, you need to carefully consider all your needs and risks involved in your business. With a good insurance policy, small business owners can have peace of mind and focus on their business knowing that their business is well protected.

Writing a Business Plan – A How-To Guide

Lots of people want to start their own business. One of the first things that stops these would-be entrepreneurs from realizing their ambitions is the seemingly daunting task of writing a business plan. Writing a business plan, though, is a rather easy task if you understand your business, so let’s take a look at what a business plan entails.

Before we jump into drafting our business plan, we should think about why we are writing a business plan in the first place. Most business plans are used to secure financing for a business – whether it be a start-up or an existing company looking for additional capital. This financing could come from a bank, an equity or venture capital fund, friends, family or just about any other potential investor you could think of.

Another reason to write a business plan is to organize yourself, make sure you have thought through all the components of your business and make sure that it makes sense. A great idea for a product or service may not amount to a great business unless you can turn a profit through effective marketing, management of expenses, management of accounting and information systems, etc.

Things to Keep in Mind

As you write your business plan, keep in mind that your audience – whether you’re currently looking for financing or not – is likely to be a potential investor. You need to communicate to investors that your company understands its business and has thought through all the risks, challenges and opportunities involved in its industry.

To communicate this understanding to investors, you should try to provide sufficient detail about your business to demonstrate your knowledge. For example, you could write something like this: “According to the ABC Trade Association, profit margins for our industry average around 25%. With the procedures we have put in place, our business can achieve 30% margins due to the increase in our operational efficiency.”

There is no hard and fast rule for where or how you should add these kind of details, but using them will improve your credibility as a company.

You should also pay attention to your writing style. There is nothing to be gained by using fancy vocabulary or flowery language. In fact, such writing may cause your audience to lose sight of your business. Instead, you should write clearly and to the point so potential investors have a clear understanding of how you run your business.

The Outline

So with these ideas in mind, how should we structure our business plan? Below is one example of how a business plan can be structured. This outline contains the most commonly-used sections of a business plan but is by no means exhaustive of the areas that a particular business might need to cover.

Executive Summary
Business Highlights
Operational Overview
Market Overview
Management & Personnel
Financials
Appendix

The executive summary of your business plan should be a two to four page summary of your business plan. It should touch briefly on each area that is contained in the rest of plan and give the reader a good sense of your business even if they don’t have time to read the rest of the document. You may also want to touch briefly on the history of your company and its mission and values in this section.

Hitting the Highlights

Next it’s good to jump into the business highlights section. This section discusses what sets your business apart and what will lead to its success. You may want to highlight the experience of your management team, discuss the strength of your position in the market or any other factors that make your business competitive.

You may want to follow this section with a discussion of risk factors coupled with how your business mitigates or addresses these risks. Discussing risks is another opportunity to demonstrate that you understand the business and industry that you’re in.

Getting Down to Business

The next section is a discussion of the operations of your company. The operational overview is usually the longest section of a business plan and usually covers the business strategy, marketing strategy, the product or service offering, management and information systems and any other components that are important to the operations of the business.

An industry or market overview is also a helpful section to have. It will give potential investors who are not familiar with your particular industry or market a better sense of the environment in which you operate.

This section may include demographic information for the market where you sell your products or services. It may include a discussion of the regulatory or legal environment for your industry. You can also include some general statistics on the industry from a credible source such as a trade association. This will lend credibility to some of the assumptions in your financial projections in the next section.

The Bottom Line

One of the last sections in a business plan is usually the financial projections. Ironically, this section might be the section you want to start with when writing your business plan. Building a financial model for your business is one of the best ways to make sure that you’ve thought through all the basic components of your business and that it will eventually make money.

You’ll have to ask yourself several questions in the process: What are my start-up costs? How will my marketing strategy translate into revenue growth? What are my gross margins? What are my fixed costs and overhead? When will I break even? How much money will I need to raise to get started? What will my interest expenses be?

Your financial projects should consist of income statements and balance sheets. A good rule of thumb for a start-up is to show monthly income statements and balance sheets for the first two years of operations and then full-year projections for at least the first five years of operations. Depending on how long it takes your business to reach a break-even point, you may want to go out to ten years.

In addition to these financial projections, your financial section should include a discussion of your assumptions, an estimate of when your business will begin to turn a profit, key margins that you believe your business will achieve, etc. If your business is already up and running, you should include the past three years of financials instead of projections. If you have less than three years of data, you may want to forecast a few years out as well.

Finally, you may want to include an appendix where you can share additional data. You may want to add a few news articles here that highlight how quickly the economy in your market is growing. You may have some news articles on your business itself. Perhaps you have financial statements for multiple business locations that would provide more detail about your business.

How Long Should It Be?

The length of a business plan may vary depending on the type of business that it is, whether or not the business is already operating and what the business plan is to be used for. Some businesses may need a lot of technical description in order to effectively communicate how they will operate – and others are more simple.

Businesses that are already operating will be expected to provide a lot more details about their business such as the kind of accounting software they use, where their company is physically located, pictures of products or facilities, actual financial results, etc.

If a company is simply trying to organize its business and is not looking for investors, they may be able to get away with less details in their plan – although they may seek to dive into greater detail than investors might need.

A typical start-up business plan should probably run about 15-20 pages, though depending on the circumstances mentioned above, it could run a little shorter or quite a bit longer.

Setting Yourself Apart

On a final note, if you’re going to start your own business, you are going pro – and you should act like it. By all means, make your business plan looks professional. It should go without saying, but carefully read and edit your plan several times before sharing it with outside parties.

You may want to consider developing a logo for your company if you don’t have one already. Use pictures of your company or the products that it sells to break up the text of the document and engage the reader.

Again, these may seem like minor details, but sometimes a business plan may be the primary document a bank underwriter might have to go on as he or she is evaluating the credit quality of a loan application.

Having these details in place helps to communicate that you are serious about your business and that your business plan was not just something that you threw together a few days before because you needed it for a loan application. Know your business (or research it well), be as detailed as possible and present your company professionally, and you will have a solid business plan.

Small Business Owners and Consumer Bankruptcy

Consumer Bankruptcy can help small business owners

As the economy is slow to recover, bankruptcy is becoming a reality for more and more Americans. Many are finding that their hard work is simply not enough to pull them through these tough times, including many small business owners. A common scenario that I see with my small business owner clients is that the fear of what would happen to their business has kept them from filing for so long that by the time they come see me, they are so over their heads with debt, they are struggling to feed their children and pay their utility bills. Bankruptcy law allows for debt relief while suffering financial hardship. To avoid the above scenario, small business owners need to be aware that they have options.

You, as a small business owner, must first distinguish whether or not it is your business that needs to file bankruptcy or if it is you as an individual that needs to file. If the debts are solely in the business’ name, and the business is incorporated or is an LLC, then the company itself needs to file for relief. The business has two options: Chapter 7 or Chapter 11. A Chapter 7 would be appropriate when the business needs to shut its doors and liquidate, or restructuring the debts would not be feasible. Note that if your business is a partnership, the business itself is not a separate legal entity from the general partners and they may be sued individually for the debts. A Chapter 11 is a restructure of the business’ debts and would be appropriate when a business could be profitable if it were not for the burden of the debts. In a Chapter 11, the business may continue to operate and remain in possession of its assets. The Debtor/business will create a restructured plan. Creditors whose legal rights are affected will be able to vote on the confirmation of the proposed plan. A Chapter 11 is a lengthy and costly bankruptcy and should be entered into with caution.

If you are a sole proprietor the business is an extension of you personally, so in this case a personal bankruptcy is appropriate. More often than not, in my practice even in the case of small business owners, it is the individual who needs to file for bankruptcy relief. In addition to a sole proprietor, a small business owner in an LLC or a corporation may also file personal bankruptcy with little effect on their business. The Debtor here has two options. She may file a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13. Again, a Chapter 7 is a complete discharge of the unsecured debts. Something to keep in mind is that the creditors of an LLC or corporation will still be able to collect against that business entity, even though the individual’s personal guarantee will be discharged. Relief under Chapter 7 is appropriate when the individual’s income received from the business and all other sources falls below a certain amount set by the IRS. So, long as the business does not have substantial assets exceeding the state exemptions, a Chapter 7 is often the best route for a small business owner. It provides a fresh start for individuals so that they may focus on the success of their business.

A Chapter 13 is an individual reorganization and is appropriate when you may be behind on mortgage or car payments, have substantial assets – including assets of the business exceeding the exemptions, or when high income triggers a “substantial abuse” objection if filed under Chapter 7. Unlike a Chapter 11, the Debtor proposes a reorganization plan and the creditors must accept it without a vote. The plan will require future monthly income from the business, after personal expenses are met, to be paid into the plan. During the life of the plan, the Debtor is protected from her creditors and after the Chapter 13 plan is complete, many of the unsecured debts will be discharged. The debts of an LLC of corporation may not be included in the Chapter 13 plan, the 13 is solely an individual reorganization and will allow you to stay in business even if the business has assets and is not the source of the debt.

If overwhelmed with debts, a small business owner has options and will not be required to shut its doors. Bankruptcy can be a powerful tool to help you through these financial trying times and achieve a fresh start.