Did you ever turn on HGTV and think, “I want that chef’s kitchen in my home” or “I would love to have a spa master bath”? The good news is that with interest rates still relatively low and the housing market thriving in major cities, now is the time to consider renovations to your home. Besides, don’t you deserve that dream kitchen & bath?
Here are some tools to get you started.
Why are you renovating? Clarify your motivations. Are you renovating to fix? To sell? To improve utility? To create a comfortable home? To hike the value of your property? Articulating your goal can guide you in prioritizing repairs and improvements.
Draw up a plan: Prioritize the projects on your ‘wish list’. Experts advise that you narrow your project to one at a time because your needs may change. Choose and buy your material and tools for that phase and produce ‘construction documents’ only for that segment. Operating this way makes the work more doable.
Consider the costs: A good idea is to draw out your budget before you start. Extensive home renovations, which include design, construction, and securing permits, take approximately a year. Would it be cheaper for you to remodel or cheaper to move? Moreover, if you’re intending to renovate in order to increase the value of your property, consider the predictive value of your home and neighborhood. Would your house become too expensive to buy? A real estate agent and a general contractor could answer these questions. If you’re intending to buy a property to renovate, have a contractor estimate the costs first. You don’t want to find yourself out of pocket after you’ve pocketed the key! It’s also a good idea to pad some dollars to your budget. There’s bound to be speed-bumps along the way.
Find the potential: One of the blessings of remodeling is that you have the chance to polish some obstructed potential. Your house may have some hidden character that you may want to highlight such as a quaint stairway that has been covered by yellow paint, or a 19th-century historical architectural façade that was speckled over by whitewash. Remodeling gives you the opportunity to develop it. Consider hiring an architect or designer who specializes in residential renovations. They can point out property potentials and inadequacies and maybe help you find alternate solutions to problem areas.
Investigate constraints: If you’re considering an addition or extensive remodel, you may have constraints on height limit, lot coverage, or grading. Your property came with a title report that should describe covenants on the building. Some homes are ‘non-conformist’ which means you can remodel almost as you please but others have current land-code requirements or are located in historic areas. In all cases, check with your building department before smashing that sledgehammer against the wall.
Personal Lines Account Manager
A recent ABC EyeWitness News Report mentioned that a construction worker was struck unconscious by a large chunk of concrete that fell on him while working demolition in Midtown Manhattan. Reporters noted that this was not the first incident of workplace injury at that site.
Construction companies experience accidents routinely. It is part of their breakfast. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that for every 100 full-time workers, there are 4.3 injuries and illnesses due to nonfatal accidents per year. The CDC calculates that of the 3.3 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses reported in 2009, more than 9% were experienced by construction workers.
Training is the secret sauce when it comes to reducing Workers’ Compensation injuries.
OSHA created a training program that construction companies can implement to teach their workers about safety concerns and how to avoid them. Here’s why you should consider implementing a Safety Program:
According to the Statistic Institute, as of 2015, there are almost 729,000 construction companies in the US. It’s estimated that 565,000 new business startups are created monthly. Of these, the construction and service industries have the highest startup rate and are the most likely to persist creating a plethora of competition. OSHA certification sets you a part from the competition.
The OSHA program teaches employees to work safer and more effective. Details of the course include discussions regarding safety, health hazards, and accident prevention.
OSHA training is all about injury mitigation. Insurance carriers favor companies who have strong loss control measures in place. The better your safety programs, the less injuries, the less claims – ultimately the less you will pay in Workers’ Compensation insurance.
Details of the OSHA Course
OSHA has two courses: the 10 and 30-hour classes. The 10-hour class covers the basics and is best suited for onsite personnel – especially construction workers, and consultants. Thirty-hour classes go into more detail, as they examine various policies, procedures, and standards – which is ideal for supervisors and project managers.
Accidents are bound to happen – that’s why they are called – well – accidents. Taking a proactive vs. a reactive approach to Risk Management is the first step to a better run business and a stronger balance sheet.
Have you implemented a safety program? Share with us the positive effects the program had for your business in the comments below!
Commercial Account Executive
In today’s digital world, businesses and people are interconnected in a network of computers, smartphones, tablets, and other high-tech gadgets. All of these devices are linked and continuously transferring data back and forth over the Internet, leaving them vulnerable to outside attacks. As digital technology is so new and rapidly advancing, different risks emerge every day and no one, from insurance companies to the Internal Revenue Service, is safe. And the risk isn’t isolated to just large companies; In fact, one in five small businesses fall victim to cyber crime each year and about 60% of those businesses go under within six months, according to a study by National Cyber Security Alliance. And cyber threats are only going to increase, as 2016 is expected to have the highest number of data breaches to date.
While businesses may think they’re immune to attacks because they don’t sell online, don’t collect a lot of data, use outside vendors for IT services or don’t consider themselves a target. A majority of data breaches occur because of human error and new industries become targets every day. Even if a company contracts out their IT, the company collecting data and records from clients is ultimately held responsible if a data breach occurs.
As threats continue to mount, understanding, managing and being prepared for cybersecurity risks is more important than ever. So how are businesses responding?
According to a recent Pricewaterhouse Cooper survey:
- 91% of businesses follow a risk-based cybersecurity framework while 69% utilize cloud-based cybersecurity services
- 59% leverage Big Data to improve cybersecurity and 65% collaborate with others to improve cybersecurity
- 54% have a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) or Chief Security Officer (CSO) in charge of their information security program
- 53% provide their workplace with an employee training and awareness program
- 52% have security baselines for third parties (which is important, since 22% of compromise incidents were attributed to business partners in 2015)
- 59% have cybersecurity insurance, which goes beyond general liability policies that traditionally don’t cover losses incurred over the Internet
- 49% conduct threat assessments to ensure they’re always on top of the risk of being compromised
- Respondents also increased their information security budgets by 24% in 2015, while their financial losses decreased 5% from 2014 to 2015
Protecting your company from cyber threats can be overwhelming. However, whether or not you’ll be a victim at some point is not a matter of if but when, so it’s imperative that businesses begin to invest and stay educated to better defend themselves and the ecosystems around their businesses from evolving threats. At Founders, we take the time to learn about you and your business so we can help you to identify and prepare for your specific risks. Give us a call today!
P&C Operations Manager
Healthcare costs continue to skyrocket for both employers and employees. In fact, the rise in health insurance deductibles has outpaced the average increase in a worker’s wages over the last five years. And despite the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), employer-sponsored health care for the 170 million Americans who get coverage from their employer is facing significant challenges.
With the planned consolidations of many of the United States’ largest health insurers, control over healthcare and spiraling medical costs feels out of reach to many and is causing people to forego care, even when they need it.
So how can you make sure your employees are getting the most out of their healthcare coverage? Here are five tips to communicate to your employees to help them stretch every healthcare dollar:
- Understand Your Coverage – Take the time to ensure you understand the healthcare plan you’re in, from the cost difference between utilizing out-of-network and in-network providers to whether you need a referral to see a specialist. And know what your costs are for everything from an office visit co-payment to a trip to the emergency room in advance to avoid any shocks.
- When In Doubt, Ask – Don’t know if that procedure your doctor advised will be covered or not? Ask your physician’s office to provide the billing code or check your insurance coverage ahead of time to make sure your claim won’t be rejected. In some instances, certain tests and medical procedures may require a preauthorization in which your doctor explains the need, which you’d want to know before having them done to avoid a rejected claim and huge bill.
- Be Smart About Prescription Drugs – One of the fastest rising areas of healthcare costs is prescription drugs, which can be expensive even with healthcare coverage. To reduce your costs, know how your drug plan works and ask your doctor to prescribe generic medications whenever possible. You may want to also research mail order prescriptions, especially for medications you take on an ongoing basis, as they often not only save money but provide convenient home delivery.
- Take Advantage of Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) – FSAs allow employees to set aside pre-tax dollars for out-of-pocket medical costs like prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. Some employees are wary of FSAs, as funds are forfeited if they aren’t used during the eligible time period. However, with some careful planning and knowledge of the plan’s specifics and eligibility timeframe, FSAs can save employees significant money.
- Participate in Wellness & Preventative Care Initiatives – Take full advantage of preventative care benefits like smoking cessation programs, reimbursement for gym memberships, biometric screenings and free flu shot clinics. While there may be some paperwork to fill out, the reimbursement check is worth the time and effort.
As an employer, helping your employees understand and make the most of their healthcare coverage results in happier and healthier employees. To make sure you maximize your dollar, make sure you also work with an agency who takes the time to provide a customized cost-effective benefit package that reflects your overall business strategy and your commitment to your employees.
Running a household takes a lot of work and, in many cases, extra help. From the landscaper to the chef to the driver, if you employ people to support you and your family, you need to make sure you minimize the potential risks to your employees and yourself. While domestic workers make your life easier, they also represent many potential hazards that you need to address. What happens if your housekeeper falls down the stairs or your au pair is involved in a car accident while transporting your children?
The United States’ Department of Labor (DOL), U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 each contribute guidelines and requirements for families who employ domestic workers that must be understood and followed.
If an employee gets injured on the job, it is your responsibility as their employer to cover their expenses. Domestic employees should be covered by a Workers’ Compensation Policy, but each state has different workers’ compensation regulations with coverage being legally required in many states. These policies protect both the employer and domestic worker should a work related illness or injury occur. They essentially pay any medical bills associated with an employee’s injury, make sure the employee continues to receive income during their recovery or illness and limit your liability.
In addition to ensuring you understand your state’s requirements and making sure you have the right coverage and policy to meet your particular needs, you also need to protect yourself from potential wrongful employment risks like claims of discrimination, harassment, and wrongful termination.
Here are three best practices to manage the risks of employing domestic workers:
- Hire Smart – Take your time hiring the right workers, be thorough in your interviewing process and do extensive background checks (that include international information, if relevant). Also, don’t rely too much on word-of-mouth recommendations.
- Keep It Legal – Many people hire un-documented workers, pay them cash and mistakenly think these workers would be unable to sue them, which is not the case. Also make sure you don’t treat your employees like independent contractors, as you’ll hear from the IRS if you skip out on paying taxes for your employees.
- Check Insurance – If you have contractors or subcontractors working in your home, ensure you get a copy of their certificate of insurance that proves their employer has worker’s compensation that would cover them if they were to get hurt on your property. Similarly, if your nanny or personal assistant is driving you and your loved ones around, make sure their car insurance includes liability coverage or put them on your policy if they’ll be driving your vehicle or have inadequate coverage.
Perhaps most importantly, make sure you work with an agent who is knowledgeable about the unique needs of high net worth families and takes the time to understand your situation and walk you through recommendations of the coverage that will best protect you and your domestic employees.
Personal Lines Account Manager