Another example of why words matter

When I was nineteen years old I had a checking account.  Retail shops at the mall would take a check as payment for purchases if you provided identification.  I went shopping to buy an outfit to go out on New Year’s Eve, and my friend came with me.  We both spotted these jeans that we just had to have, awesome boots, and super soft sweaters.  I wrote a check for the purchases, and the check bounced.  Did I commit a crime? If so, should that crime bar me from having a professional job such as teaching, selling real estate, or being an insurance agent?

Think about the word ‘knowingly’ and what role that might play in the overall picture.  Then ask yourself if you were nineteen years old, would you know enough to read a statute before pleading guilty, if you thought all you were pleading to is that you did in fact write a check that bounced?





The Elements of Risk Management, Step by Step

It may be safe to say that nobody knows your business quite the way you do, but even with that knowledge, there might be times when you fail to examine all the risks that could come up during the span of your business operation. There are good reasons for this. First of all, nobody’s perfect and no matter how well you plan, or implement risk management strategies, it is impossible to be perfect, and keeping in mind, that the only way to avoid risk in business is to not be in business, will go a long way when it comes to planning. Implementing an effective risk management plan is not about avoiding all risks but rather preparing for them, implementing strategies that will help mitigate them, and being cognizant. Second, the world is ever changing and today’s risks might never have been thought about yesterday, so it is very important to stay abreast of the times. For example, many businesses have drones but have not thought to consider whether legal liability associated with these drones might be something that is excluded from a commercial general liability policy. Additionally, compliance issues, legal climate, public policy and jurisdictional matters can all change, sometimes overnight, and being mindful of this, and how these changes might impact your business is important.

So how does a business go about establishing an effective risk management plan? Should it consider employing a full time or part time risk manager? Or will the cost of doing so prove to be too costly, and might the business achieve better results by having a professional insurance agency and/or broker involved to pass off some of these responsibilities to save costs. Then again, will that said broker and/or insurance agent charge in fee more than an annual salary of a full time dedicated risk manager?

What about the transfer of risk?  If a claim is uncovered, whose fault is it?  Be mindful of the recommendations that your insurance and/or agent makes and why, and when declining certain limits and/or coverage, know that there may have been good reasons that these recommendations might have been made.  So be certain to outweight the costs vs. the coverage and remember the old adage, “penny wise, pound foolish”.  Insurance usually gets a bad rap by non-insurance professionals, but in my opinion, the value of having insurance in place to help mitigate catastrophic losses is priceless.

There is clearly no solution set in stone and many businesses change their course as they evolve. Some employ professionals who have insurance and/or risk management experience, while others look to educate their key personnel so that they can be armed with information and education to effectively plan.

Below are some steps that are good for businesses to keep in mind when going about setting up a risk management plan. Again, keep in mind that depending upon your business, things might be different, but the following might be a good benchmark to start with when either creating or comparing the overall risk management process.

First you need to identify risks to your business. Think about possible scenarios of what could happen if this or that happened, such as a fire, earthquake, theft, an automobile accident, employee related accident, or employees declaring unfair labor practices.

Part of this process would be to analyze your business. Consider your significant business pursuits, including your fundamental operations, personnel and anything that could possibly have an impact on them, such as accidents, power failures, natural disaster and disease, sickness or death. What plans do you have in effect if something you identify were to happen, so that your business could continue to operate without interruption? If there were an interruption, how long could your business be down for without having a severe impact, and what measures do you have in place to consider these extra expenses?

You may be wondering just how to go about assessing your risk. You might have already done an initial review when the business was first formed, and that review may or may not have been updated. Depending upon the set of circumstances, including whether you have had staff changes over the years, it may make sense to start from scratch, as opposed, to reviewing and updating what has been done in the past. Consider reviewing incidents that have happened already, some of which may have been close calls, and others that may have been written about in trade journals.

Having a clear picture of your business is what is needed to have a clear understanding of your risks. You want to be sure that you do not exercise denial as opposed to careful, mindful consideration. Consider questions including when, where, why and how things might happen. Include both internal and external considerations, such as third parties. For example, what if you are emailing an employee’s personal information including a driver’s license number, social security number, or medical information to a healthcare insurance provider. What if there is a breach at the healthcare insurance company, and the data you shared is compromised? Would your company have an exposure here? Have you considered the consequences, and would your current risk management and/or insurance coverage cover this?

Have you thought about the ‘What if?’ scenarios? What if your employee was involved in an automobile accident and caused a school bus to swerve off the road, causing injury to several children? Would you have enough insurance to defend and cover the legal liabilities you might be exposed to? How much do you think an accident like this might entail?

Sometimes one of the most effective methods to identifying risk is to effectively brainstorm with professionals you trust including those with backgrounds in accounting, insurance, and human resources experience. Nothing is impossible, and while it might not be possible to shield your business from every possible scenario that could go wrong, it is possible to have peace of mind, knowing you did all you could to consider what could happen, consulted professionals you trust, and built a solid plan that can evolve as your business grows.

When it comes to business insurance, it is a good idea to educate yourself as much as you can about various different policy types, what’s covered and what’s typically excluded, and get premium quotations from reputable insurance carriers. Consider higher and lower deductibles, various claims that might not have been paid in the past, the reasons for same, and look to build solid relationships with your carrier through your agent and or broker. Remember it’s always good to get prices before deciding not to purchase coverage, and it’s okay to ask your insurance company to help you with loss control issues by providing newsletters and/or on site inspections.


You have a way with words . . .

What is it about words and me?  I love words.  If I were to live my life all over again I would probably major in English and my love affair with words would begin much sooner, than later.  Only, I might still find myself working in the insurance industry, because it is there, among other places that words are so very important. Of course, words are also very important when it comes to the law.  I think I’ve written about this before.  A perfect example might be the word ‘rape’ or the word ‘bully’ and how those words are defined or not defined in the eyes of the law.  When it comes to insurance, the word ‘auto’ has significant meaning; only whether or not it’s defined in your policy is another matter entirely.  By the way, have you read your policy lately?

Now most people might not take the time to actually read their insurance policies and they might not realize just how important some words are until after they experience an uncovered claim.  It might be nearly impossible to know the definitions of all the words and how they matter, but in my opinion, words might be among the most meaningful variables when it comes to coverage.

This past week I had the pleasure of being at an insurance industry class and one of the instructors loved words!  He spoke often about how much they matter when it comes to determining whether or not there is coverage for a particular claim.  In my opinion, words are probably one of the most important ways to argue both for or against coverage and/or should be something you examine when reading anything.

Now back to sports!



When is the right time to start thinking about your business insurance renewal?

If you’re like me you love thinking about insurance.  In fact, you probably wake up thinking about insurance and go to sleep at night, dreaming about policy terms.  Right?  Of course, you do.  🙂

Me, I happen to love insurance almost as much as I love Twitter.  In fact, if I were a business owner, I would probably think about nothing other than business insurance renewals.  Oh wait, if I did that, I would have no time to focus on my business.  So that’s probably not a good idea.  Only, it might not be a bad idea to start thinking about your business insurance renewal way before the 120 day start date, when most agents are inclined to start their engines.

Why, you ask?  Well, think about it.  If you’re a good size business, you probably got charged a pretty hefty brokeage fee.  Do you know why?  What is the fee for?  How was it determined?  Did it include or exclude paid commissions that the agency or brokerage firm would get from the insurance carriers?   Would you get any money back if you decided to switch brokers mid-term?

Let’s just say that chances are you focused more on the overall premium reductions than the fee and you were just happy to put the overall renewal process to bed.  Only, does it make sense to wait until later to have your broker or agent earn their fee?  Or was this fee earned when they did the renewal marketing?

Let’s think for a moment.  What’s involved with renewal marketing, and is it always wise to put your company’s insurance out to market or does it make more sense to develop relationships with insurance carrier’s so that you have ‘money in the bank’ for that day when a claim might come?

What I would suggest is to consider doing an analysis mid-term that consists of evaluating strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your current insurance agency &/or broker, and if you think it makes sense involve them in the process.  Think about how much money you could save if you did not market your renewal.  I mean, after all, if the fee went toward renewal marketing, does it make sense to consider meeting with current underwriters mid-term, get an indication on the renewal premiums and then as long as there isn’t anything crazy on the horizon, focus on stability rather than putting your account out to bid?

You might also want to consider having an independent consultant come in and help you with this process.  If you need my cell number, let me know.  I’m serious.  I have a ton of experience in the insurance industry, and am happy to help people to understand how the process works.  I am not working with any agency or brokerage firm right now, and I am not a huge fan of working for commission, and trying to sell someone insurance.  I would much prefer to help someone understand insurance than sell it.

Who knows, you might end up having as much love for insurance as you do for Twitter. 😉

Terrorism, defined … yes, words matter

It’s early here in Nevada, and I woke up later than usual, because for some reason I had trouble sleeping.  After eating what I swear feels like a million and one Girl Scout cookies, I finally fell asleep.  Of course, it was probably more like four or maybe six, possibly ten, but clearly not a million.  Does it really matter how many cookies I ate last night?  The point is, I had trouble sleeping and spent the night rummaging through the pantry until I found the hidden box of cookies, and then spent a good part of my night wide awake.

So anyway, it’s early here and I happened to notice a text come across my phone that’s all about how our president, has blamed the students for not notifying the police.  Referring to the recent school shooting, the person texting me, expressed disgust with the president, and felt that the term terrorist was a more appropriate term rather than shooter, when referring to the perpetrator of the latest tragedy that recently occurred in Florida, leaving several victims to die in a senseless tragedy.

For what it’s worth, using the term ‘terrorist’ is something that should not be taken lightly and there are certain traits that an act of terrorism have for it to be classified as a terrorist act.  For so many reasons, none that might seem important, words are important and the definition of these words, might lead to subjective interpretation but none the less, definitions do come into play when it comes to criminal acts.  Additionally, when insurance matters are resolved, whether or not a catastrophe is an act of war or terrorism can be all the difference when it comes to defending and/or paying claims.

Sadly, while many are mourning the loss of loved ones, people tend to talk about things that might seem to make them heartless.  I have not heard the president’s comments about the shooting, but I have little doubt that if he did say that children who knew about threats should have notified the police, was meant in a manner that these threats that occur should be taken seriously.  Of course, the problem can be, that there are so many idle threats and determining what threats are real, is always easier after the fact.

Thinking back to when I was a substitute teacher in Toms River, New Jersey, I recall when there was a student that I would have considered a threat to him and other students.  I came to know him when I was asked to cover a Phys Ed., class.  He was not changed for gym, and was told to walk the track.  Different than in my day, when students who did not change, got a zero for being unprepared and were allowed to sit on the sidelines, nowadays, at least in this particular intermediate school, students are told to walk the track.

So this one young man, who seemed to me to be somewhat of a loner, was walking the track and I decided to walk with him.  I brought something up about something or other, and began to make conversation.  He responded to me that he was very angry and that he began to tell me why.  At first I thought he was kidding, and I attempted to make light of the matter, until I realized he was serious.  I continued to walk with him, but my sensors of fear were detecting that this child was very angry, and I remember thinking to myself, that I was frightened for the students, and student body.

That particularly class was the last one of the day, and afterwards, I reached out to the person in charge, and told him about the conversation I had with the student.  I remember his reaction was sort of matter of fact, and he thanked me for sharing, but it was as though he knew exactly which student I was speaking about before I ever mentioned his name.  So I ask you, in this situation, what’s a person to do?  Did I do enough?  Should I have notified the police?  Or did my letting the school’s principle serve as enough?

Getting back to words . . . sometimes there are no words that can be said to make things right in the wake of a tragedy.  Sometimes people say things and mean other things and sometimes no matter what a person says, people will find a way to dissect it and make it out as though that person is so very heartless.

There are no words to make this go away.  Looking for red flags that might have been flying in the wake of a tragedy is not necessarily victim blaming, or blaming anyone for that matter, it could just be trying to find a way to mitigate and prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again.  It would be wonderful if we could all see through the various partisan views and come to realize that when we all work together, we might have a chance at coming up with effective risk management plans.  When we point fingers and blame others, we often fail.


Another day, another school shooting

It’s horrific to think that someone would take a gun to a school and shoot innocent people.  As I look at the photos that come across the Internet, of the most recent tragedy in Florida, I am reminded of when my son was in high school and one of the students in his graduating class was told he could not attend the ceremony.  The reason, he had a list of students he would shoot, in his phone and shared that list with a fellow student.  My son had called me and told me there was going to be an assembly for the student body, which would provide limited details and asked me to not get involved.

The reason he thought I would get involved, besides my being employed by a neighboring school system, was that the student who was being told he could not attend the assembly was one of my friend’s nephews, and sort of related to us.  He was his cousin’s cousin, and my sister’s nephew.

A few years prior, soon after Hurricane Sandy had hit, I was staying with my sister’s sister-in-law who just so happened to have a photo of her nephew on the fireplace mantel, and when my son noticed the photo, he said, “Mom, that kid is in my school.  He’s so mean.  Why is his photo here?”  I would later inquire who the boy was, and my sister’s sister-in-law, who was becoming my good friend at the time, told me it was her brother’s son.

I would later find out that this young man was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at a young age, and struggled socially.  I told my son, at that time, that perhaps the young boy was not so much mean, but just different and explained that he might have had a condition which caused him to behave in certain ways.

So knowing the young man’s family caused my son to think I might get involved in some way and my son told me that students were frightened and that he was accepting of his school’s choice not to allow the boy to attend the graduation ceremony.

As I read this morning’s paper, about the school shooting in Florida, I am mindful about the comments made by students who knew the apparent shooter.  Some have said that they believed that the young man was depressed and that they sort of expected that some day, if anyone were to take conduct a shooting, it would be him.  This reminded me of the threat assessment academy I attended back in 2004, hosted by Gavin de Becker, the author of The Gift of Fear.  The academy was about predicting violence and participants of which I was one, asked if we felt that human violence could be predicted.

Should students with certain conditions be monitored in some way or is this a violation of their rights? If you think about things from a utilitarian perspective, whose rights matter more?  I remember the when the boy my son went to school with was barred from graduation, his mother called me and she was so upset that her son was not permitted to graduate with his classmates.  Yet, she was more concerned that this most recent event and the barring would cause the college he had been accepted to, to change their mind about his admittance.

I don’t so much have the answers about how to do things better or whose rights matter more, but my heartbreaks for the parents who lost their child or those who lost family members.  My heart also breaks for the shooter for he had to be so lost and disturbed to commit such an act.

Good things happen all the time, but when something like this happens it can cause us to become sad and think about all that is wrong with the world.  It is my hope that light shines brighter than the darkness, and there is some sort of peace found among the horrific event, but I can only imagine how difficult it would be to get the call that your child has been shot. My prayers are with those parents tonight.


Help Wanted

I’m old enough to remember when searching for a job meant scouring the newspaper in search of a job.   Every Sunday, and Wednesday for sure, those who were looking for work, would gather all of the newspapers and have pen in hand to circle the jobs that were appealing.  These days there are very few jobs listed in the newspaper and the way to go about searching for a job has changed dramatically.  There are social media forums such as LinkedIn that allow you to list your experience and skills, and several different job boards that promise results.

Only those job boards do not always deliver on those promises and finding a job in today’s competitive environment can be a daunting challenge.  For someone like me, who took time off to raise my son and return to school, those ‘fill in the blank’ boxes can be difficult.  Not everything fits nicely, and more often than not, I find my email inbox riddled with cookie cutter responses that say, thank you for your application and promises to keep my resume on file for something that might be more suitable.  Only, the job I may have applied seemed like the perfect position, and my qualifications seemed to match, only for some reason I was not chosen to go on to the next level.

It’s difficult not to get discouraged when so many rejections fill your inbox, but of course, the only thing anyone can do is keep trying.  There are also other avenues including professional headhunters, resume writers, and networking in person.  The most important thing is to never quit.  This, of course, is not only the best advice a person can give it is also a note to myself, as I begin my day and start to look again for opportunities that might be fitting for someone with my experience, skills and passion.

Ironically, years ago, when I would scour those newspapers, I would often come across jobs that would list qualifications including education levels I had not achieved.  Lately, the message I get is, that my resume is “too strong” and how my not getting an opportunity is a “compliment to me” because a company is looking for an entry-level person without the experience and skills I have acquired.

It is tough not to get discouraged, and I find myself resisting the urge to beat myself up for going back to school and completing my degree and/or staying home and doing volunteer work while I was devoting my time to raising my son.

That being said, it’s time to pick me up and dust myself off and get back out there.  If by chance you happen to be reading this article, and know of anybody that might be looking for someone who is most willing to work, please keep me in mind.


Help Wanted


CyberSecurity (Policies and Procedures)

Something I came across in class today, just a reminder I guess – but something I wanted to share:

Policies and procedures may be drafted flawlessly, but are useless if not enforced. – HarvardX (CyberSecurity Course, ‘2018)

It’s so true, that no matter what you’ve got written in your mission statement, it means aboslutely nothing if you don’t back it up.

Women to Watch (out for) …

As I sit here in my apartment, looking at the article that just came across my timeline on Twitter, I think about all that’s happened these past six months, and wonder just how to make sense of it all.  It seems that not a day goes by without a new allegation about some sort of sexual harassment or employment practices liability issue making the headlines.

I think about the #MeToo hashtag and just like so many women, I have had my share of difficult times in the workplace, but I’ve also had my experiences with so many great men and women who have truly worked in a manner to support and encourage me during different stages of my career.

I also know that sometimes there are relationships gone bad, and just because you’ve had a relationship with someone, and maybe it did not go the way you wanted it to, that’s no excuse to sue your employer for allegations of sexual harassment.  On the flipside, someone who has had a relationship with someone, might be the brunt of horrible treatment, simply because the relationship did not work out, and that’s a totally different story.

It’s not just men, though, who mistreat their employees.  There are women out there who are just as capable of engaging in power struggles, and misuse their power in ways that one can only imagine.  It’s a shame, too, because women can be accused of being catty and in my experiences it’s rare to find a woman, who is genuinely happy to see another woman achieve great success.

“Ashley Judd, the actress and humanitarian, urged attendees of Business Insurance’s Wome to Watch …. to discuss and find solutions to sexual harassment and gender violence.”Gloria Gonzalez, Business Insurance 12/15/2017

How does one recognize the signs of one of those women who are out to discredit and allow jealousy to enter into their world?  It’s not always easy to know right from the start and sometimes we get fooled into thinking someone is our friend or wants to be supportive, until we actually begin to shine, and they do all they can to dim your light.

Sometimes it’s important to simply walk away with your held held high, knowing that you might not be clear on where you’re going but remaining where you’re at, would cause you dismay.

Some people misuse power, many of those people are men, but many of those people are women who simply cannot stand to see another woman shine.  To my fellow collegauges, who might have been among those women to watch, remember to be watchful of your own behavior, and when we talk about gender violence, keep in mind that sometimes it’s the women who are most cruel to their fellow females,  It’s not just men who are the enemy, and we need to always remember that ultimately, professionalism and kindness rules.