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2 days ago · by · 0 comments

Start Your Insurance Renewal Process Early This Year (Insurance Secret Inside)

Businesses are shrinking or expanding constantly.  Start your renewal process today by comparing your policy estimated payrolls with the summary W-2 sheet produced by your accounting department (must be completed by February 1).

Review the 1099s and check these recipients against your files to assure certificate compliance and proper risk transfer techniques.

After reassessing your payroll exposures for the coming year, estimate your current premium.  Talk to your agent about optional markets at that premium level, insurance companies have different appetites for different size risks.  Find several appropriate insurers.

Many insurers now demand loss control inspections prior to commitment to offering any quote.  Get your reports in order.  Make sure loss control measures are in place and working.  Order loss runs from your current carrier to have on hand.

Most important: leave enough lead time for the inspections to occur.  At least ninety days, so new insurers can inspect your operations.

The insurance markets retool every few years and create new identities, new brands within the industry.  Currently, insurance companies are deciding what size accounts they will seek, single lines like workers’ compensation or general liability, or supporting lines requirements: like workers’ compensation, general liability or automobile liability.  Ask your agent what the current view is among their companies.

The key to having choices is starting early now.  Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of the renewal carrier.

While your reassessing your policies, rethink your program as well.  Your program consists of the risk management decisions that have subtle but important impacts on your insurance costs.  For example: what is your best expiration date?  In the construction industry, January first or April first are popular choices in a well-managed risk management program.

One secret within the insurance industry: rates tend to change on calendar quarters.  If rates are increasing on April first, you can always renew on March thirty-first if you have enough lead time.  But you need to know in advance and have friendly underwriters, and proactive agents.

Calendar quarters allow for government filings to be used as a basis for the insurance auditors, and audits go smoother.  Corporate financial years can be good, especially if they fall on calendar quarters.  Decide your best expiration date (and you want all liability lines to share that date)and begin 120 days in advance gathering quote information and loss data.  Shop early.

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1 month ago · by · 0 comments

Holiday Decoration Safety Tips

Holiday decorations around the office are fun and festive, but they do pose safety hazards and can cause injuries. Whether your employees decorate the office for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or New Years, insist on numerous safety precautions.

Avoid Trips and Falls

Place trees, gifts or displays in areas that are out of the way. If these items sit in a hallway or other busy area, employees could trip or fall over them.

Climb a Ladder

When hanging garland, snowflakes or streamers from the wall, windows or ceiling, use a ladder or step stool instead of a chair or desk. The right support helps you reach high places without pulling a muscle or falling.

Use Nonflammable Materials

All the holiday decor you use should be labeled as nonflammable or noncombustible. Check the label, too, to verify that your decorative drapes, lights and artificial greener are made of fire retardant material and safe for your employees.

Don’t Block Signs or Exits

Seasonal banners and other decor items may fit perfectly over signs or doors, but never cover signs or exit doors. Remember to keep fire equipment and sprinklers free from decorations, too.

Stay Away from Heat Sources

Always check the surroundings before you place decorations around the office. Items should sit away from vents, space heaters and other heat sources.

Attach Tall Items Securely

Tall trees and other display items are top heavy and may topple over if they’re bumped or even randomly. Secure tall decor items to the wall or ceiling with guy-wire.

Select Cool Burning Bulbs

Safety tested and cool burning bulbs in light strings or lamps are less likely to cause burns or fires. Check the label to ensure the bulbs are tested by an independent lab and verified to be safe.

Inspect Lights

Holiday lights add a festive look to your office, but always inspect lights before you plug them in. Toss strands with frayed or bare wires, broken or cracked sockets, or loose connections.

Take Care with Extension Cords

Extension cords are convenient but potentially hazardous accessories. Only plug in the recommended number of light string sets. Also, avoid tacking or stapling cords to the wall or floor, and tape or cover cords that cross the floor on walkways.

Ban Candles

An open flame is a big burn and fire hazard. Only allow electric lights and ban candles for safety.

Turn off Lights

At the end of the day or whenever the office is closed, switch off all the lights. You’ll save money and reduce a fire hazard.

The holidays can be more festive when you decorate the office. Use these safety tips to reduce injuries and keep your employees safe.

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3 months ago · by · 0 comments

The power of positive thinking.

Although you might not be aware of it, there are far-reaching benefits to positive thinking that can improve your health and help you with stress management. According to the Mayo Clinic, studies show that the personality traits of optimism and pessimism can have a direct impact on your well-being.

The good news is that, even if you are a pessimist by nature, you can take steps to improve positive thinking techniques in your life, and reap the resulting health and well-being benefits. Health Benefits of Positive Thinking. Over time, researchers have explored the effects of optimistic thinking on health, and have found many correlations between well being and positive thought processes. These include:

  • Longer life span
  • Better resistance to the common cold
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Reduced rates of cardiovascular disease
  • Improved coping skills during times of stress and hardship
  • Better physical and psychological well-being


Get on the Road to Positive Thought Processes. 

There are some simple steps to take to move away from negative thinking, and create a new habit of positive self-talk. Monitor yourself: During the day, stop and take note of your thoughts. If thoughts are mainly negative, make a conscious effort to put a positive spin on things.

Be open to good humor: Give yourself permission to be happy, to smile, and to laugh, even when the chips are down. Seek humor in everyday events.

Lead a healthy lifestyle: Follow a healthy diet and exercise at least three times per week. Eating right and exercising both have positive effects on mood and stress management.

Surround yourself with people who focus on the positive: Choose to spend time with family and friends who are cheerful, supportive, and offer helpful feedback. Avoid spending time with negative people who have a “glass half empty” attitude.

Practice positive self talk:
 Be gentle and encouraging with yourself, and never tell yourself something that you would not say to another person. If a negative thought enters your mind, try to think about it rationally, and follow up with positive affirmations about yourself and your circumstances.

Practice Every Day! 

If you have had a past tendency to have a negative outlook on life, don’t despair. While you may not become an optimist overnight, with everyday practice, you will begin to replace negativity with productive, positive thoughts.

You may find that you become, not only less critical of yourself, but more accepting of the world around you. As your general attitude improves, you will begin to reap the physical and emotional benefits of a positive outlook on life!

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3 months ago · by · 0 comments

Business Owners – protect your business with a Buy-Sell Agreement

You and your business partner or partners have a clear and common vision of how to run your business, where it’s going, and how it’s going to get there. As a team, you’ve worked together each and every day to share the daily demands and shape the success of your business. That said, have you thought about what would become of the business and all your hard work if you or one of your partners became ill, was injured, or died?

A business doesn’t have to become disabled or die just because one of the owners retires, dies, or becomes too sick or disabled to work. Whether the transition of business management or ownership needs to take place after death or during life, it can be orderly accomplished through appropriate business succession planning.

A buy-sell agreement is a tool commonly used in business succession planning. This planning feature, when correctly funded and designed, can orderly establish the value at which the business will be taken over and who will be doing the taking over. The owner can have a peace of mind from knowing that the business has a predetermined basis for which it can be sold in a ready market, thereby giving the owner a source of funds when they need it, such as when they are ready to retire. If the owner was to die prior to the above predetermined basis occurring, then the buy-sell can be used to meet the survivor’s needs or pay hefty estate taxes.

Although there are several ways that a buy-sell agreement can be established, an entity purchase agreement and cross purchase are the two most often used:

Cross Purchase

Due to favorable tax results, this is a highly used approach by many small businesses. It’s generally used by businesses that only have a small number of owners. The cross purchase is typically funded with a life and/or disability insurance policy that each of the owners must maintain on their co-owners. The death benefits from the life insurance policy aren’t subject to taxation since the owners, not the business, actually own the individual life insurance policies. Each of the business owners are legally obligated to purchase the ownership interest of the other co-owner(s) upon death.

The deceased owner’s estate sells the owner’s interest to the surviving owners in exchange for the proceeds from the life insurance policy. The surviving owners will get a step-up in the business’s tax basis. Alternatively, the insurance cash value can also be used if one of the co-owners was to need to fund a buyout during their lifetime. One point to remember regarding a cross purchase is that administration is smoothest when there are only a limited number of owners and will become increasingly difficult to administer as the number of owners increase.

Entity Purchase Agreement

This type of buy-sell agreement works somewhat like the cross purchase, but it’s the business, not the owners, that will maintain an insurance policy on each owner and agree to purchase any deceased owner’s interest in the business. As such, the taxation is different.

The death benefits under both an entity purchase and cross purchase agreement, whether being paid to the business or an individual, are exempt from federal income taxation. However, unlike with the cross purchase, there are certain situations that a C corporation can be subject to the corporate alternative minimum tax under an entity purchase. There’s also not a step-up in basis under the entity purchase plan.

Hopefully this brief overview of the entity purchase and cross purchase types of buy-sell agreements has spurred you to think about how vitally important business succession planning is to your business. Of course, this short article couldn’t possibly cover all the factors to consider when developing a business succession plan. As you begin the preparations for you business succession plan with your attorney, accountant, and insurance agent, they should be able to answer any additional questions or concerns you might have.

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9 months ago · by · 0 comments

Cutting costs without cutting corners, now that the new tax year has begun!

The craftsman’s motto, “measure twice, cut once” is a sort of microcosm of everything you need to know in order to bring projects in on time and under budget. Cutting corners, taking shortcuts, neglecting necessary expenses, that might help you save time and money in the short run, but best case scenario, it’s going to wind up costing you more in labor and budget to redo it later on. Worst case scenario, you build a faulty home that collapses in the first year, if it manages to pass inspection in the first place, and then nobody ever hires you again.

The first thing to go when people take shortcuts tends to be safety. A rush job makes for an unsafe work environment, and results in an unsafe living environment. No matter how much time and money you save on the job, it’s no good if you wind up paying it back in legal fees and time spent in the court room.

So how do you save time and money without taking dangerous shortcuts?

Be Pragmatic When Buying Tools And Materials

Simply put: there’s not much that a $200 hammer can do that a $10 hammer cannot. Don’t cut costs on quality, but shop around, and don’t overspend on fancy tools and materials that you don’t need.

Overestimate All Costs

If you promise your client that you’ll have the addition done in a week, and then a nasty thunderstorm hits on day seven, you’re going to wind up trying to finish up the roof in the middle of a heavy downpour. Promise a two week turnaround on the same project, and the client will be delighted to see the project finished six days early. Don’t make “best case scenario” promises. As they say, plan for the worst, hope for the best.

Pay A Little More For Experience When You Need To

A $12-a-hour lackey might be able to install a kitchen sink if you give him the whole weekend to do it. A $30-an-hour professional plumber might be able to get the same sink installed in an afternoon. Saving money often means spending a little more now so you can spend considerably less in the long run.

Don’t Over-commit Yourself

You’re going to burn through a lot of gas and a lot of daylight if you’re running three jobs at a time and driving all over town to get to them. If client #2 can’t wait a few days for you to finish up a job for client #1, they’re probably a pain in the neck to do business with anyways.
It all comes down to common sense, really: Pace yourself, set realistic goals, spend wisely, and always put safety first.

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10 months ago · by · 0 comments

15 Risk Mitigation Tips for Airbnb Hosts

Property owners have a unique opportunity to efficiently rent out their entire home, a spare bedroom or other accommodation through the online service known as Airbnb. For travellers, Airbnb is convenient, web-based platform that provides affordable and flexible alternatives to hotels. For property owners, the tool easily connects various rental units with prospective occupants and makes collecting payments simple and secure.

Despite it’s convenience and the potential for profit, Airbnb is not without its risks for those who decide to list. Before renting out your home or spare room through Airbnb, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Acquire the proper insurance.
    Proper insurance is key to mitigating the risks associated with Airbnb. Take the time to review your renters or homeowners policy to make sure you have adequate coverage in place.
  • Complete a home safety inspection.
    Safety inspections can help Airbnb hosts address risks before they balloon into bigger issues. Before listing your property on Airbnb, complete a through home inspection and address all of the safety hazards you identify.
  • Screen all guests.
    Prior to allowing guests to stay in your home, it’s a good idea to check their background. To begin, ensure that prospective guests are verified through Airbnb. You can also review any connected social media accounts and read guest references through the site. Above all, trust your instincts.
  • Set clear rules.
    Through Airbnb, you can create guidelines for guests by completing the House Rules, Home Safety Card and House Manual sections of your profile. This allows you to set clear rules for guests around etiquette and safety.
  • Establish occupancy limits.
    Limiting the number of occupants that can use your property will help ensure that guests are comfortable and safe during their stay. Occupancy limits should take into account the size of the property and local regulations.
  • Add a security deposit.
    Adding a security deposit to your Airbnb listing can lessen the financial blow in the event of damaged property or another incident.
  • Secure your valuables.
    When you open your home to guests, there’s the potential that valuables could be damaged or stolen. To protect expensive items, consider moving them into a safety deposit box or to a secure off-site location.
  • Protect sensitive information.
    Your property isn’t the only thing you need to worry about when inviting guests into your home. To help prevent identity theft, make sure that guests cannot gain access to any files (physical or electronic) that contain sensitive personal information.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
    Safety equipment like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be installed around the premises to protect guests and your property. Emergency exists should be property labeled as well.
  • Child-proof your premises.
    It’s likely that some of your guests will have children. To protect younger guests, take the time to properly child-proof your home.
  • Keep your accommodations maintained.
    Good housekeeping can help guests avoid common injuries such as slips and falls. Prior to each stay, examine your home for any new housekeeping issues that must be addressed.
  • Provide contact information.
    Always supply your guests with information sheets that indicate local emergency numbers and the nearest hospital. Provide a clear emergency contact number for yourself, as well as back up, for easy guest reference. Also make clear how you should be contacted if the guest has questions or issues arise.
  • Supply a first-aid kit.
    In addition to providing emergency contact information, having a first-aid kit readily available and fully stocked at all times is important to guest safety.
  • Verify compliance with regulations.
    Regulations around Airbnb hosting can differ depending on your location and the type of accommodation you are renting out. Double-check that you are compliant with local and state laws before using Airbnb.
  • Notify those who could be impacted by your guests.
    When you host guests through Airbnb, there is the potential that neighbors or roommates could be impacted. To avoid unnecessary conflict, let your neighbors or roommates know ahead of time that guests will be using your property.

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Scurich Insurance Services
Phone: (831) 661-5697
Fax: (831) 661-5741

Physical:
783 Rio Del Mar Blvd., Suite7,
Aptos, Ca 95003-4700

Mailing:
PO Box 1170
Watsonville, CA 95077-1170

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(831) 661-5697

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