Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Insurance tips for small business

Almost anyone starting a business quickly discovers that they're adrift in a sea of paperwork. You have to register the company, perhaps form an LLC, keep the books, pay taxes, handle employee documents, and much more.

Like it or not, insurance is an important part of that list. To get started, here are some business insurance tips, from the Washington State insurance commissioner's office:

  • Understand the risks to your business. How would a severe storm affect you? Records theft? An accident involving a delivery truck? Supplier disruptions? Insurance lets you transfer risk to an insurer in exchange for paying a premium.
  • Choose an agent or broker. What's the difference? Agents represent one or more insurers. The companies pay them a sales commission. Brokers, on the other hand, typically charge a fee to represent you in the marketplace.
          How to choose? First, talk to other small business owners about their experiences with insurers. Then interview several agents or brokers. Compare the costs of equivalent coverage. And ask how premiums have increased over the past five years.

          Whomever you pick, it's very important that he or she act as your representative to the insurance company. They should understand your business as well as insurers' claims- and rating processes.

  • If you offer health coverage to workers, take advantage of the tax benefits to your company. Businesses can generally deduct 100 percent of the premiums they pay to qualifying health plans. Also, consider joining an association to get a group rate on coverage for your employees.
Want more specifics?

-Here's a look at buying and coverage options. If you have a daycare, do you need commercial coverage, or can you add coverage to your homeowners' policy? Click here for more on topics like that.

-And here's a small-business-oriented site set up by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which represents the state officials who regulate insurance companies.