Communication Necessary For Bonding And Contracting Success

In today’s economy, comprehensive financial data comes at a premium. It is increasingly necessary that contractors provide updated financial information to bonding companies in order to maintain a solid working relationship. Many bonding companies feel an increased need to pressure contractors for necessary banking documents, balance sheets, income statements and more.

This is certainly not conducive to a mutual understanding between parties of what type of bonding is needed and even what is accessible to a contractor. Without up-to-date documents, bonding companies are challenged to determine if contractors are qualified for specific types of bonds initially. What’s more, when lacking quality prepared financial statements, working through a bond market becomes increasingly difficult for contractors.

Determining qualifications for projects cannot be based on how a contractor performed in previous years or on the sizes of previously conducted projects. No contractor wants to be left without the proper bonding tools because they depended too heavily on outdated financial information.

Contractors must remember that their relationship with a bonding company or representative is a highly important one that should be maintained throughout the course of their work. Properly maintaining this relationship with the most recent financial documentation makes the workflow easier for all parties involved.

Current financial data goes a long way in determining the success of a contractor. Bonding companies rely on correct information to be able to cater to the individual needs of each contractor, so a little financial cooperation can go a long way in an unstable economy.

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Natural Disaster Preparation

Disaster preparedness can be a particularly daunting task for a small business with limited resources and restricted staff dedicated to the task. But if we learned anything from Hurricane Katrina, it was that natural disasters do not discriminate in their destructiveness between the prepared and the procrastinators. Mayhem, it seems, is an equal-opportunity visitor.

When faced with potential natural disasters such as hurricanes, it’s essential that small businesses prepare their employees to effectively respond. Through effective coaching, internal staff can grasp the importance of having emergency “go bags” (including water, food, clothing, medication and lighting), pre-planned locations for a family to meet in the event of an evacuation and various types of communication methods in place, in case wired and wireless voice communications are interrupted.

If your company engages customers in transactional exchanges, review your customer management plan thoroughly. Do not neglect the importance of examining the disaster preparedness and recovery plans of vendors that are vital to your operation, as these organizations need to be as equally prepared as you are.

Oftentimes businesses and individuals place themselves in a corner and feel exempt from unfortunate or life-threatening circumstances, but recent occurrences teach us all the lesson that planning for the unimaginable is essential. Organizations should take nothing for granted and consistently evaluate the systems in place, so that if and when disaster strikes, the level of readiness is at its maximum preparedness. Disaster preparation means more than surface analysis of work space and technology evaluation. Valuable preparation places heavy focus on the protection and support of all employees, inevitably allowing employees to feel comfort in the fact that under the worst circumstances, stability can remain for their business and families, because challenges have been addressed before a crisis strikes.

Looking for more information?

SunGard has a specific website devoted to hurricane preparedness for businesses. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also offers advice on how to quickly recover from natural disaster. For more detailed information on the upcoming hurricane season, visit The National Hurricane Center, which has details on what to expect with the upcoming hurricane season.

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Be Prepared for Hurricane Season

It is that time of year when many of us head to the coast to open up our summer homes. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most active times of the year for hurricanes.

Experts predict that America faces the possibility of 16 named storms, nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater. You should check that you have the proper insurance to cover damage from these potential calamities, should they occur, and remember the following:

  • Hurricane insurance can be expensive. It has had steadily increasing rates in both premiums and deductibles over the last few years, thanks in part to the escalating number of claims related to hurricanes as well as the sluggish economy. Still, those costs are a fraction of paying for uninsured damages.
  • Flooding is not covered by hurricane insurance. Even when a hurricane obviously causes water damage to a residence or business, hurricane insurance typically is limited to covering catastrophes caused by wind from a storm. You will need a separate flood insurance policy to cover destruction from excess water, including mold.

Call your local insurance agent to get more details on the proper coverage for your summer coastal home.

Image: BGATLIN

Pool and Spa Drain Cover Recall

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which protects the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of the thousands of consumer products, issued a news release on May 26 that warned pool and spa owners, operators and consumers about a recall. http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prhtml11/11230.html

The recall involves various pool and spa drain covers. The recalled drain covers were incorrectly rated to handle the flow of water through the cover, which could pose a possible entrapment hazard to swimmers and bathers.

The press release states that the pool and spa drain covers can be identified by the manufacturers’ name and model information listed below.

Company

Model Information (websites)

Dates Sold

Remedy

A&A www.aamfg.com Dec. 2008 – Apr. 2011 Replacement or Retrofit
AquaStar www.aquastarpoolproducts.com Dec. 2008 – Apr.2011 Replacement or Retrofit
Color Match www.poolfittings.com Dec. 2008 – Apr. 2011 Replacement or Retrofit
Custom Molded Products www.c-m-p.com Dec. 2008 – Apr. 2011 Replacement or Retrofit
Hayward Pool Products www.hayward-pool.com Dec. 2008 – Apr. 2011 Replacement or Retrofit
Pentair Water Pool & Spa www.pentairpool.com June 2009 – Apr. 2011 Replacement or Retrofit
Rising Dragon www.risingdragonplastics.com Dec. 2008 – Apr. 2011 Replacement or Retrofit
Waterway www.waterwayplastics.com Dec. 2008 – Apr. 2011 Replacement or Retrofit

The press release also states that these pool and spa drain covers have been sold through independent distributors to professional pool and spa builders and installers. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed. It is illegal to resell or attempt to resell a recalled consumer product.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission advises pool owners/operators and consumers who have one of the recalled pool or spa drain covers to immediately contact the manufacturer to receive a replacement or retrofit, depending on their make and model. Except for kiddie pools, wading pools and in-ground spas, retrofit or replacement of installed covers are not required in pools with multiple drain systems or gravity drainage systems or for covers installed before December 19, 2008.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, consumers should contact the Drain Cover Recall Hotline toll-free at (866) 478-3521 any time, or visit the Drain Cover Recall website at www.apsp.org/draincoverrecall. Consumers with drain covers from Waterway Plastics should contact the firm toll-free at (866) 719-6044 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, or visit the manufacturer’s website at www.waterwayplastics.com. If you have been impacted by this recall please call SIA Group, as we will gladly assist in connecting you with the appropriate contact.

Photo source: Joe Shlabotnik

Weddings, Vacation and Event Insurance

Insurance is purchased constantly for one specific reason – to protect individuals, property and investments from unexpected or unfortunate occurrences. Though we would like to believe that when we are hosting an event or celebration, or planning a wedding, we could avoid unforeseen disasters, it’s simply not reality. With upfront fees, deposits and countless expenses accumulating, insurance coverage should be considered as a means for additional protection.

When would event insurance be applied?

It’s the horror stories that no one wants to become reality. Whether it’s the inability to attend events due to unanticipated weather destruction, sudden hospital admittance of the bride or groom, event reschedules caused by postponed construction or vendor cancellations – insurance protection can allow affected parties to recoup lost finances.

Depending on the occasion and budget, event insurance costs can range from minimal to all-inclusive for appropriate protection. If you’re looking to apply event insurance, start by evaluating the inclusions of general liability, liquor liability, cancellation and third party damages, as these will most likely cover all basic needs.

Protect yourself against the “worst case scenarios.” When the unexpected happens, insurance coverage won’t alleviate the stress and frustration, but will at least protect the investments of your expensive undertakings.

Photo source: TheGiantVermin

Insuring Summer Fun

The summer is just around the corner, and we can already smell the burgers and hot dogs on the grill. Summer means fun by the boatloads. But in order to ensure summer fun all season long, you first need to make sure your big ticket items are properly insured.

Nothing says summer fun like sailing across a lake or waterskiing behind the family’s powerboat. But to make sure your fun stays uninterrupted, you need to have your boat insured, and you need this for a couple of reasons.

First, the summer months align perfectly with hurricane season. When Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992, it caused an estimated $500 million worth of damage to the boats docked in and around the Southeastern United States. Secondly, accidents happen. If you are boating in a low tide or shallow water, there is the possibility that your boat could scrape against rocks or the sea floor, causing extensive, and expensive, damage.

Personal water craft (PWC), or wave runners, need to be insured as well. As much as we might not like to think about it, jet skis are just as dangerous as they are fun. In 2005, 267 fatalities were attributed to boating and PWC accidents. Insuring these craft not only protects you in the event that it becomes damaged, but also in the event that someone is injured.

Summer is a time to spend with your family and friends. Contact your insurance provider today. Don’t let inadequate coverage be the reason your fun in the sun becomes spoiled.

 

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Distracted Driving – Employers Liability

More than 16,000 Americans were killed in “texting while driving” accidents between 2001 and 2007. That number is now up to 16 people killed every day by distracted drivers, a rate that will equal more than 5,800 by the end of 2011.

Distracted driving affects virtually all age groups and backgrounds. For example, every week we hear about high school students taken too soon because of distracted driving. And in September 2008, 25 people lost their lives when the engineer of the train they were riding in slammed into a freight train that he never saw coming because he was texting while operating.

While these statistics would be enough to push any parent to the brink of an anxiety attack, employers need to be paying strict attention as well. As of October 2010, 30 states plus the District of Columbia had outlawed text messaging while driving. Nine have banned the use of cell phones by drivers in their entirety.

So What Does This Mean for Employers?

Employers are responsible for employees who do any driving while on the clock, whether it is making deliveries, or just running an errand for the boss. It is an employer’s legal obligation to have clearly stated policies against employee texting while driving.

Additionally, it is your responsibility to make sure that these policies are enforced. If a member of your staff causes an accident while behind the wheel of a car during work hours, the employer can be held liable by the victims of the accident. This is not direct liability, as if the employer committed the act themselves, but vicarious liability, which holds superiors responsible for the actions of their subordinates.

As the number of deaths from distracted drivers continues to skyrocket, it has become everyone’s responsibility to figure out how to stop it. Almost every day we hear about horrific accidents caused by those who text, check e-mail, or otherwise multitask while driving. Employers should communicate to their staff a zero-tolerance policy of these dangerous practices, because the consequences of failing to do so are too great.

 

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The Negative Impact of Hospitals Acquiring Medical Practices

Across North Carolina, it is becoming the norm for hospitals to purchase individual medical practices. In the past, a hospital purchasing a medical practice was a rarity and was usually done as a last-ditch effort to keep a rural location open. Today, hospitals are purchasing medical practices in great numbers.

 

Why is this happening?

  1. Medical practices are receiving reduced Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.
  2. Medical practices are seeing rising overhead costs and decreased incomes.

What are the benefits to medical practices?

  1. Administration functions become centralized.
  2. The nonprofit status of hospitals alleviates taxes that burden for-profit practices.
  3. There is a greater possibility for higher reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid with a hospital.

The downside of all of this is that the hospitals now have greater bargaining power over the insurance companies at the negotiation table. Insurance companies negotiate contracts with medical providers to get discounted rates for their clients. Each company will have a different percentage due to a variety of factors, including the number of providers in the area.

With fewer options for insurance companies, hospitals no longer have to offer larger discounts in order to get the business of insurance companies. With smaller discounts, patients are going to see rising costs for health insurance.

 

Image: a.drian

Importance of Allowing Ample Time for Bond Acquisition

Insurance agents should be brought into the discussion of securing surety bonds for clients as early as possible. The importance of applying for bonds and getting bonding established cannot be overstated.

Giving the agent enough time to process a bond request is important due to the fluctuation in our current economy and the ever-changing underwriting philosophies of bonding companies. Bonds are becoming more of a challenge to secure due to these two factors.

With sufficient amount of time to process a bond request, the agent can pursue multiple avenues of securing the bond, especially when it exceeds the current bonding capacity or is outside the realm of the normal scope of work. Sufficient time for the agent is contingent on whether a contractor is already set up for bonding and whether a contractor has kept the agent up to date on underwriting information.

There is no hard-and-fast rule for how much time an agent needs to secure a bond, which is why the earlier you submit your materials, the better off you will be. A declination may be given in a situation where time is rushed due to the lack of necessary underwriting review. Time is of the essence when applying for any type of bond, so that the agent can find the perfect fit and solution to any challenging bond situation. It also allows for time to acquire any additional information that may be needed in order to secure the bond.

As soon as you begin to think that you may need a bond, it is never too early to contact your insurance agent. Bringing them into the discussion will ensure that your agent will have the time needed to identify and secure the best bond for you and your project needs.

Image Source: NobMouse