Saturday, May 5, 2012

“One of our professionals will be with you shortly”

Trying to keep up with everything in your personal life and get your small business up and running will result in something being forgotten if you do not create to do lists. Of course these lists are all part of your plan for the business to get started or continue to grow. With a plan in place all will go well…
Thinking that since the economy is not doing very well (yes, this is contrary to what you may have heard lately, but it’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it) all businesses would 1.) Have saved their best people and let the slackers go and 2.) Will do all they can to make you happy, produce a quality product and give full attention to your needs. Unfortunately, I have found this is not the case based on some of the entities I have dealt with for critical start up and maintenance needs for our small business. Bearing in mind these entities are small businesses themselves there are lessons for those already established and, maybe, wondering why they are not successful or why their business is not growing.
It is very frustrating when you are trying to get started and trying to obtain the necessities, such as insurance and website set up, when you do not know who to trust and cannot depend on “reviews” to make an informed decision. If you have someone you know personally that can provide good information about different companies, then use it as many companies have their own employees post good reviews and or pay others to do so.
For our particular business we require General Liability as well as Errors & Omissions insurance. Thinking I would embrace the electronic age fully, I decided the best resource was going on line for quotes. I went to one of the many on line entities advertising they would obtain quotes from all of the major carriers for you and thus saving you time by not having to contact each one yourself. They provided a simple questionnaire that appeared to be asking all of the pertinent questions upon which to base a quote. After completion and submitting, I soon received an e-mail stating my completed questionnaire had been received, the results of my questionnaire had been filtered and the following companies provided the type of insurance I needed and that the following companies would be providing quotes directly to me shortly. These were all major companies you see advertised daily on the web and television. I guess I could say maybe it was the particular service I chose or the fact I should have requested their definition of the term “shortly,” because after two weeks of not hearing from any one of the companies they mentioned I decided to start anew.
I decided to continue to embrace the Internet, but to focus on local brokers to our area. Once again, my on line research provided several results and I sent requests to each. I heard back from one within minutes, they stated we would be very impressed with their service as they had received favorable comments from some of their customers such as “when we had a problem, they really had our back.” They went on to say “one of their professionals would be in touch with me shortly”…there was that word, again, “shortly.” Needless to say, I never heard anything else from this company nor did I receive a response from any of the others. After a few days of waiting I decided I needed a different approach.
My next approach was to look up companies on the Internet and then call them directly as I desired to hear a voice tell me what they were going to do and in my mind be more apt to stand behind it. I found a company residing in a building I was very familiar with in the very center of downtown…this had to be a reputable and trustworthy business. I called the number provided and ended up in voice mail, no problem happens all the time. The next day I was rewarded with a return call, not from the person I left a message with, but someone else who worked for him. We had a conversation where I was asked all the pertinent questions and told I would need to fill out a required questionnaire they would then send to various companies for a quote. I provided my e-mail address so he could send the questionnaire in the morning…never got it. Okay, so you say he must have written the address down wrong…fine, why didn’t he call back, he obviously had my phone number since he called me. So, after a couple of days I gave up on this one as well.
My final approach was to use phone book listings and while going down the list of insurance brokers I spotted one I recognized and was well known. I made the phone call, provided all info during the conversation, received another call in a couple of days providing quotes he received so far and scheduled a meeting to review the quotes. We had the meeting in about a week, where I was able to review all of the various quotes, pick the one I wanted and sign an agreement.
Lessons learned:
1.)    Start as early as economically possible to obtain the needed insurance. In my case I had to have it in place prior to obtaining one of my licenses from the state and the final approach still took a total of two weeks to obtain insurance. Overall I wasted six weeks on this issue alone.
2.)    The new ways are not necessarily the best. Use tried and true to get the best and quickest results. And if you are wondering why I didn’t bother to try and contact the others, again, for an explanation or to move them along…why should I chase them and make them do their job? After all, this was insurance I was getting…imagine how good they would be at responding if I do have an issue!  

Needless to say, this delay affected my plan as it stayed on my “to do list” way too long. In my case I was far too naive in my approach and, well, this would not be the last time…

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