Business @dvisor

  • Winter 2014
  • 2015 Business Trends; Fight the Flu; Green Biz Ideas; Bust Scams; Get Organized

  • Fall 2014
  • Protect Computers; Communicate Better; Overcome Obstacles; Subcontractor Tips; Prepare for Winter

  • Summer 2014
  • Prevent Burglaries; Networking Tips; Facebook Marketing Tips; Roof Maintenance; Finance for Start-Ups

  • Spring 2014
  • Business Trends; Electrical Safety; Social Media Tips; Business Insurance; Business Accelerator

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Safety Advisor

Winter 2012
Business Plan Basics

Plan the Work, Work the Plan

How do businesses succeed? Business plans play a big role.

It's never too late to create a business plan, whether you're just launching a start-up or have been running your business for years.

Business plans enable you to accomplish the following keys to success:

  • Set clear business goals and ways to achieve them.
  • Identify growth opportunities and strategies.
  • Manage operational costs and increase profits.
  • Reduce risks for failure.
  • Understand your market and your competition.
  • Meet your customers’ needs.

Here are crucial elements of most business plans:

  • Executive Summary: A snapshot of your business plan.
  • Company Description: What your company does, and how it differs from the competition.
  • Market Assessment: An analysis of your industry, the market and competitors.
  • Structure: How your business is organized and managed.
  • Marketing, Sales and Public Relations: How you will boost sales, and promote your business.
  • Products and/or Services: What do you sell, and how it meets customers’ needs.
  • Financial Targets: Your financial goals, which are crucial to funding requests.
  • Seeking Funding: Key information needed to obtain outside funding

The level of detail to include in each of these sections will vary, of course, depending on the size of your business and whether you need external funding.

Ready to get started?

Here are some excellent resources from the U.S. Small Business Administration:

Create Your Business Plan

Business Plan Template

How to Create a Business Plan (interactive course)

For additional guidance on writing business plans, check out these e-tips from American Family’s Business Accelerator Program.

Proactive Safety and Loss Prevention

Proactive Safety and Loss Prevention
Could Save You Money

For many companies in the United States, workers compensation is one of the costs — literally — of doing business. And in 2013, many states will implement changes causing those costs to rise or fall, depending on how you run your business.

Why? The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), which helps most states set their workers compensation rates, will change its methods of determining an employer's "experience modification factor" — or "ex mod" — a loss experience-based multiplier used to determine workers comp insurance premiums before discounts.

In short, the NCCI's new ex mod factor changes will more precisely reflect the frequency and severity of individual employers' loss prevention and safety records.

So, if your state's workers compensation rates are affected by NCCI’s changes, and your business’ loss prevention and safety history is less than stellar compared to others in your industry sector, your workers comp insurance premiums may be higher in the New Year.

Conversely, if you have a better-than-average safety and loss prevention history, you might be rewarded with lower rates.

American Family Insurance operating states directly affected by NCCI changes in 2013: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wisconsin.

American Family states not directly affected by NCCI changes in 2013: North Dakota, Ohio and Washington.

Improving your business' safety and loss control practices

Regardless of whether your business will or won't be affected by the NCCI's changes, improving safety and loss control performance makes good business sense, period.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cites numerous studies and articles showing businesses with strong safety and health programs can be more productive and profitable.

Here's an overview of ways to promote safety and loss prevention at your company, no matter how small or large it is.

  • Set safety goals.
  • Have employees and supervisors work together to design safety and health practices.
  • Ensure that all employees understand workplace safety practices through training and effective, frequent communication.
  • Improve ways to report and investigate accidents.
  • Establish return-to-work programs that gradually transition injured employees to appropriate work duties.
  • If applicable, include physical capability requirements in job descriptions.
  • Purchase equipment with ergonomic features.

We’ve got you covered

Consider business insurance from American Family. Our Workers Compensation and Employers Liability Policy (not available in all states) is among our flexible business insurance options that can be tailored to your needs.

Additional resources

Injury and Illness Prevention Programs, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United States Department of Labor

Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United States Department of Labor

Workplace Safety, National Safety Council
NOTE: Fees may apply to NSC training programs.

Preventing Workers Compensation Fraud

"Making the Business Case for Safety and Health," Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United States Department of Labor.

10 Wintertime Money-Saving Tips

10 Wintertime Money-Saving Tips
for Businesses

Cold weather can be costly for businesses! Follow these practices to help your business save money in the wintertime.

  • Slippery sidewalks = potential costs: De-ice sidewalks, parking lots and other outdoor pedestrian areas. It will reduce the potentially costly risks of employees or visitors getting injured from slips and falls. Remember, American Family business insurance can cover you for these and other risks, too — talk to an agent for details.
  • Don't chill your workers out: To reduce heating costs, lower the thermostat in work areas, but not too much. A 2004 Cornell University study indicated that office workers are most productive at 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and that employers could save $2 per worker per hour by "raising the temperature to a more comfortable thermal zone." During non-work hours, turn the heat down to 55 degrees to save on heating costs.
  • Have a "closed door policy:" Keep exterior and freight doors closed as much as possible to lower heating bills.
  • Let the sun in: Open curtains and window blinds to maximize the amount of warmth generated by direct sunlight in work areas. But remember to close window coverings at night to keep the heat in.
  • Insulate it: Insulate water heaters and supply pipes to avoid wasting energy (and money). Also, insulating pipes and fire sprinkler systems can prevent costly water damage if they freeze and burst. Ceiling and wall insulation also lowers monthly utility bills.
  • Seal it: Ensure that windows are closed, properly caulked and not cracked or broken.
  • Decoration in moderation: Planning on outdoor holiday lighting displays at your business? Save on energy by using a lighting timer to shut them off during off-hours. Use LED holiday lights, which consume 99 percent less energy than traditional lights. Take the lighting displays down right after the holidays, too. Learn more about decorating safely during the holiday season.
  • Prevent ice dam(age)s: Avoid costly damage from ice dams by ventilating your attic, insulating your attic floor, and installing an ice-and-water barrier under your roof covering.
  • Be an energy star: ENERGY STAR® products help you save on utility costs. Case in point: ENERGY STAR heating and ventilation units are 20 to 30 percent more efficient than older models.
  • Good maintenance = savings: Ensure that your heating and ventilation systems are well-maintained and finely tuned. Keep ducts clean and replace filters.
Get Free or Low-Cost Business Advice

Get Free or Low-Cost Business Advice
Right in Your Area!

Besides American Family Insurance's Business Accelerator program, there are other great resources out there that can help your business grow.

For example, Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) offer free in-person business consulting and at-cost training on everything from writing business plans, to accessing capital, to regulatory compliance and more.

Here are a few other facts and figures to consider:

  • Small businesses receiving SBDC assistance experienced an average sales increase of 16.8 percent between 2009 and 2010, compared to an average sales increase of 4.6 percent for businesses in general.
  • SBDC in-depth clients (businesses that received five or more hours of consulting time) generated more than $4.7 billion in new sales and saved an additional $5.1 billion in sales in 2010.
  • $100,000 in financing is obtained by SBDC in-depth clients every 17 minutes.
  • SBDCs help more than one million entrepreneurs each year.

There are more than 1,000 SBDCs in rural, suburban and urban areas throughout the United States. To learn more, or to find out if an SBDC is located near you, visit the Association of Small Business Development Centers website.