Small Business Help

A lively discussion about starting a business and navigating those growing pains.


Listen to the full episode here, or read the full transcript below

Paul Martin: Welcome to Risky Business Commercial Insurance for the Butler Buyers. This is Paul Martin, the business commentator on CKLM and joining me as always, Colin Rooke, the commercial risk reduction specialist at Butler Buyers. Colin, we have talked everything from cyber security to all matters related to COVID and I know people are tired about COVID but really it is such an overarching issue in the business world and in community at large in general but one of the byproducts of all of this is people, some people find their jobs are disrupted and that kind of stuff so we’re seeing more people migrate towards being self-employed, starting their own businesses.

Paul Martin: They’ve probably been thinking about it and this was the trigger that got them to go but when you’re a startup, you might know the technical part of your industry but there’s stuff you’re doing to help people that are startups understand the insurance part of it. It’s not something that is sexy or they talk about every day or you even learn in school but it’s an important element so today we’re going to devote the show to how can Colin and his risk reduction plans help the startup business and I don’t know, are you getting, noticing that are more people starting businesses and this is becoming an issue and something you’re talking about?

Colin RookeYeah, we are. Certainly, there’s some industries that are obviously way down as a result of COVID and quite honestly it seems for everyone that’s down, there’s one that’s just shooting through the roof and anything to do home improvement, home renovation, buying or selling your home, new cabins, any toys related to that cabin purchase. There seems to be a ton of activity and so, if you think about okay, you’re noticing a trend and you want venture out and I’ll take, for example, you’re a roofing contractor or you’re working for a roofing contractor and you say, “Now’s the time. I’ve had some time. I’ve had some quiet time to sort of reevaluate what I want to do and where I want to be and then now the industry has picked up,” and you’re saying, “The time is right.”

Colin Rooke: So I want to encourage those people to reach out to us. We spend a lot of time making insurance easy. We talk about insurance made easy and I haven’t really touched on the startup side of our business on this show. We talk about high level risk management topics, new and emerging risks but I do want to talk about for anyone listening right now that’s saying, “I might do it myself.” We do focus on you as well. So just using the roofing contractor example. We have insurance coverage guides that we can send right to you that explains, for example, what you might need and we have this across dozens and dozens of industries. What types of risks are there and you might say, “Well, I work in the industry. Obviously I know I can damage a roof or I could be responsible for a leak,” but maybe you didn’t really follow it quite as closely and really understood what that meant.

Colin Rooke: We can explain from the industry perspective what you might need, examples of claims and even help with the business planning stage of the business. We also take it a step further. Maybe you are established and you are venturing out but you don’t have the systems and procedures in place. Maybe the company that you were with did. You didn’t really document that very well. Well, we make investments there as well and in a lot of cases we can say, “Okay, well here’s a guide that will help you establish that.” Using the roofing contractor example, we’ve got a loss control questionnaire completely developed for roofing contractors.

We can explain from the industry perspective what you might need, examples of claims and even help with the business planning stage of the business

Colin Rooke: Now, it covers everything from your premises, your location, your staff to the work you’ll be doing for your customers to the commercial auto portion. Maybe you have staff, maybe you don’t but it covers all associated risk that we can think of and it allows you to go through a checklist of either do we have this, do we don’t have this or are we doing this, are we not doing this and even right down to the customer itself. This is something where you could say, “Okay, well I’ve got a new job,” whether it be commercial or residential. “I’m going to give them this checklist. I’m going to fill it out on a per location basis. Paul, I show up to your home. You’re going to let me work on the roof. This is something where I can fill it out and then have you sign off on it and we’re in agreement of the conditions of the roof, the conditions of the electrical, conditions of the premises.”

Colin Rooke: So therefore you’re identifying things or potential issues or just the general condition before you get up on that roof. And again, I want to stress that when you’re starting out there’s a lot of moving parts. There’s just so much more to do than you think there might be and so we really want to focus on, well how can we make the business startup process easy and not just from a coverage perspective. How can we really add value from a risk perspective and again, things like a loss control questionnaire for very specifically, roofing contractors, are ways that we can contribute and hopefully have those new businesses contact us or in this case, existing, if you don’t have one but we want to help out in this category as well and we do

Paul Martin: You can make interesting point here is that you can’t really each out to these startups because well, you don’t know who they are. They’re just startups, right? They kind of have to take the initiative and if they give you a call you can give them almost a fill in the blank business plan if you think about it that way. That’s kind of what you’ve prepared for them.

Colin Rooke: Yeah, absolutely and we take it so many steps further. Everything from safety guides. Let’s say … Maybe you have some capital and you’re going to start with five, 10 employees. We can give you a fleet safety manual that you can start right from day one. Maybe you’re worried about sexual harassment or incident response plans for cyber attacks. We can provide all of that for you. We can really alleviate as much of the headache as we think possible anyway and so I really want to encourage anyone in any industry that’s saying, “I might do this.” Reach out to us and ask the question. Do you have something that I can use that’s going to make this process easier and for most cases unless it’s fringe industries that maybe we’re not aware of or we have no familiarity with, we probably do. And quite frankly, even if it’s a fringe industry, well an office safety manual has so many applications, for example. A fleet safety manual has so many applications.

Colin Rooke: So call us, get started out right. We have in house staff that are here, I’ll say here in the sort of sometimes here, sometimes remote but available every single day to help you with this stuff and work with startups. So don’t be afraid. We’re not too big to work with the new business. Again, we spend a lot of time investing in these products.

Paul Martin: We’ve got to take a little break here in a half a minute or so, so I don’t want to get too far into this next question but really as you’re talking it just struck me. We’re pitching this to startups but my guess is there are a lot of businesses who are one, two, three, five years old who are dreaming about doing these kinds of things that you’re talking about. They’re just too busy being busy to sit down and write the fleet manual or whatever. So maybe this isn’t … We’re talking about it being for startups but it really is for all businesses that are in a relatively formative stage, I’m guessing.

Colin Rooke: Yeah, I would agree and we have these conversations as part of our risk reduction plans but again, with a startup that we haven’t met yet because I don’t know you exist, I want those people to know you can come to us too.

Paul Martin: All right, well we’re going to take a little break. We’ll come back and pick this up after … We’ll just step out for a couple of minutes. You’re listening to Risky Business Commercial Insurance with Butler Buyers. Back after this.

Paul Martin: Welcome back to Risky Business Commercial Insurance with Butler Buyers. Paul Martin here and joining me is Colin Rooke, the commercial risk reduction specialist with Butler Buyers. Colin, jut before the break we were talking about effectively you have on the shelf what could be loosely characterized as a fill in the blank business plan for any startup or relatively new business. You’d be quite willing to talk to the little guys and say, “Come on in and do this,” and I guess that begs a couple of questions. Why do you that? It’s time consuming I’m assuming on your part but it’s something you’re offering. Why would you do that? What’s the business case from your side?

Colin Rooke: Well, certainly we’re looking for new clients all the time and if we train them right, the right way to view insurance and the purchase and placement of insurance and they believe in our process then we can start from the beginning, a healthy relationship that benefits both from a risk management perspective and I think … That’s really important to us. When we work with new clients we’re often fixing bad habits. We spend a lot of time explaining how the industry has worked to date, how we’ve changed that, what options you have to change the process and it takes some time.

Colin Rooke: But we also realize that, and you mentioned it before the break that big or small doesn’t mean you have processes and procedures in place. You may never have found the time. Maybe things just took off rapidly and you’ve never found the time to do things properly, to document your processes and maybe you’re growing so rapidly and this is a new need for you. So we don’t go into any conversation assuming that you have everything done because it’s certainly not the case.

Colin Rooke: You think a large manufacturing facility, multiple locations probably has some sort of incident response plan or disaster recovery plan, a crisis management plan and we interview those companies and we find that no, they don’t. They’re aware they need one. They’re aware of the plan. Other people have said, “You should have this” but then we come in and make it easy and so a lot of the documents that we create have multiple applications and in this case, if you are building out a business plan, you’re going to get a lot of questions about policies, procedures, what steps you might take. There’s going to be all sorts of questions around insurance and financing and if we can say, “Well you know, what forks for established clients will also work for you even though you’re not open.” If we can help from the beginning and you see the value in working with us, we both grow as a result.

Paul Martin: Well, it’s all about that future development isn’t it? And paying it forward and part of it is, it’s just the right thing to do but also you position yourself as the player in the market that is empowering those to understand this part of the business. Let’s face it, most people know their part of the business and they have to keep on top of whatever it is in your individualized sector that is important on any given day. You say, “I will take care of finding all about what’s new and important in the insurance world and I’ll pass it along to you.”

Colin Rooke: Yeah, and for example, you mentioned it’s the right thing to do. We’ve gone to Riley McCray, who he’s an in house producer specifically trained for this type of scenario and he spends a ton of time educating potential new startups that don’t have a policy to place. We might start the conversation a year out and a year later we get the call. “Hey, I got everything together and I’m ready to go,” and we take a lot of pride in saying, “We were a part of that.”

Colin Rooke: We may have had four or five calls and sent out some documents and we didn’t charge for those and we spent a lot of time advising and now they’re ready to go and they trust in our process and we’re working together and we made a promise that as they grow we’re going to keep growing and helped them along that journey. Again, if you don’t have a policy today it’s still okay to say, “I do have some questions and I hope to have a policy.” I don’t know how many people say that. I hope to have an insurance policy someday but maybe they do after listening to this show.

Again, if you don’t have a policy today it’s still okay to say, “I do have some questions and I hope to have a policy.” I don’t know how many people say that. I hope to have an insurance policy someday but maybe they do after listening to this show.

Colin Rooke: I hope I get to work with Colin but we’re a family run business. We started from nothing and we’re growing as a result and we’re paying to forward and we’re helping those that aren’t yet established.

Paul Martin: Well, we’re sort of saying to people who are just starting up in business, there’s a lot of things about insurance you don’t know. So let’s take a minute here to tell them something they don’t know. Let’s provide them with some information. One of the topics that you’ve raised lately that’s caught my attention and maybe we just talk about this is, what they call, you guys in the industry call a hard market. That’s a term that’s pretty common for you but for the rest of us who are lay people, we’re not maybe so sure about it so talk about that.

Colin Rooke: Yeah, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about why it’s pricing through the roof and the thing is if you asked a friend what was their … You’re starting out and what did they pay for insurance a few years ago? Well, that number that they gave you is just not applicable now and as brokers we’re inundated with data every single day that tries to explain this hard market. So the best example I think I can give to explain to the masses is if you look at the last 10 years in Canada, each and every living, breathing Canadian owes $39.03 to help repay the cost of natural disasters. If you look at the 10 years prior, each and every Canadian would owe $3.70.

Colin Rooke: Now, if you’re the insurance companies, the insurers that are supporting those type of losses for the last 10 years, that type of increase and I don’t know a single company that would say, “My policy has increased 10 fold or even 15 fold in the last 10 years and yet the claims are …,” and this isn’t even all claims. This is just natural disasters roughly. We’re not talking about liability, errors and omissions, directors and officers. Just the cost of natural disasters alone. That’s the best way I can describe the state we’re in now and the crazy thing about this statement though is it’s not even the natural disasters that are the main drivers. It’s liability and so it’s worse.

Colin Rooke: That’s the best way I think I can explain why your policy is going up, why if you’re starting out now you’re going to have to budget for some increases and why I feel that we’re years away, similar to COVID, we’re years away from things returning to normal.

Paul Martin: And there’s no vaccine on the horizon for this one.

Colin Rooke: Yeah, exactly.

Paul Martin: It’s a striking number when you say it’s somewhere between 10 and 13 times. Losses have grown that much just on the natural disaster side in the last 10 years.

Colin Rooke: Yup.

Working with us and developing a risk management plan and something that we can document and support and explain that you’ve either learned from past losses or you’re learning from the data to insulate yourself from future losses. There are dozens of ways to save.

Paul Martin: No industry can withstand that kind of battering without doing something dramatic to protect themselves. Yeah, and there’s some anomalies there. There’s some years are better than others but when you look at the average it’s pretty shocking and what every business owner needs to take from this, whether you’re starting out or well established is, I have to do my part to curb these losses or I will always feel like a victim but that starts with putting the work in. Working with us and developing a risk management plan and something that we can document and support and explain that you’ve either learned from past losses or you’re learning from the data to insulate yourself from future losses. There are dozens of ways to save. There are dozens of ways to be the diamond in the rough. You just can’t leave it to chance.

Colin Rooke: Colin as always, so informative. Thank you for this and really appreciate the insights and you’re encouraging those who are in the startup mode to come and see you. It’s never too early to start this conversation.

Paul Martin: Absolutely.

Colin Rooke: You’ve been listening to Colin Rooke, the commercial risk reduction specialist with Butler Buyers. This is Paul Martin. Thanks for joining us for another edition of Risky Business Commercial Insurance with Butler Buyers.