Among the many aspects of business a landscaper must heed in order to do business – even an individual who seldom hires help – are the multitude of thoughts dedicated to the bureaucracies who are at the periphery of life in the trade in which we work. City licenses alone require certain “must-have” requirements and they are the most basic of requirements for tradesmen anywhere. If one goes public at all, the State will be looking into pretty much everything they can, requiring resale licenses, statements relative to them, among many other potential requirements. And when I mention “periphery”, I am understating the case. The fact is, these very mechanisms determine much of what we do – like it or not.
Business Requirements at City, State and Federal levels
But among the most sensible requirements of any aspect of a business is the utter necessity of having a reasonable insurance policy. We can cry all we like about having to fill out forms for the State or Federal allowances to let us work, but insurance is something else entirely. The fact is, in a trade as risky, as public and as dollar rich as gardening and landscaping, not only is a liability insurance policy among the requirements from the agencies with whom we register, it is actually smart to have. Why?
Reasons For Insurance
- A sensible client will require a business to be insured, in the first place. His homeowner policy may very well not cover someone falling from a ladder, pruning trees. And let’s face it – your pocket may not be deep enough when the emergency brake on your pickup snaps, sending your truck into the client’s garage. While I was proud of my record over the 20 years of running businesses, there were still accidents and incidents for which I was eternally grateful I was insured. Here are some examples from my experience:
- A kid working for me – as I describe in another post – tried to save a sinking and falling wheelbarrow full of heavy rocks on the job and wrenched the snot out his back – bad. I was talking with a project manager at the time and heard a siren down the street, which we ignored. Suddenly one of my guys busts into my meeting, yelling breathlessly: “Trevor broke his back!” Argh. Yep, the ambulance was for him. He did not, of course, break his back and he actually returned to work in a few weeks after treating his strain. We kept him on some easy work for a while and, a few months later, he was back to being a human backhoe again. I love hockey players! My insurance company paid for his recovery and, yes, my Worker’s Compensation payments increased a bit for 3 years, but then leveled back out again as we worked without another incident. I shudder to imagine what it would have cost without being insured.
- We returned from the Thanksgiving Break in Reno, having had a glorious and totally rare 4 days off, only to find over $7,000 worth of equipment stolen – our big table saw for bricks, our compactor, our laser level instrument, its tripod, even wheelbarrows, shovels and rakes – gone. We arrived, nude, as it were. Another business at the same site lost a Bobcat! These were pro’s. I filled out the theft report with Police, talked to my totally sympathetic Insurance Agent and he cut a check within a week for replacement tools. My $235 a month policy paid off completely, to say the least.
- I had a truck stolen at my apartment complex where I lived – a gated community. Same deal. I was driving within a week.
Is One Company Better Than Others?
Had almost any of these events taken place with me devoid of insurance, it would have been game over for the business. Imagine the cost! Insurance can actually be the best investment among the many possibilities of using money of any in the known galaxy. There is absolutely no substitute for a good insurance policy. None. Zero.
Which brings us to another category entirely – who to insure with? I have dealt with 5 different Insurance Agencies in my time as a business person. It is similar to accountants, in a way, is what I found. Some companies bit into the “Expand or Die” category of businesses and became too large to relate to. I have tried calling Insurance Agents who I paid for, who put me on hold and literally forgot about me. As a business person, this is somewhere on the outer edge of tolerable. In fact, it was one of the reasons I changed companies, immediately shopping much more assiduously for someone with whom I could have a conversation who actually knew who I was on the other end of the phone. Well, I found I could get lucky. That there was a wide variation between agencies and even an equally wide variation in service. I found, in short, that the best Insurers were people who studied comparative pricing for their clients, who studied codes and new wrinkles, who answered the telephone and who corresponded with me about possible policy changes and events in their bailiwick. In short – I found there were motivated and unmotivated insurers. If you don’t believe this is huge, let me assure you – you will. Let me assure anyone considering Insuring themselves, their business or their workers – who you hire matters.
I found out something else. Larger businesses who are busy insuring corporations, homes, Medical issues, auto’s and the likes tend to drift from specializing. Companies such as this take a call from a landscaper and send it on to someone who has – at best – a modicum of insight into conversations dealing with tree-pruning, land leveling, Bobcats costs and even the travails of landscaping labor.
I found a region of Insurers who specialized in landscaping and lawn and garden work – it was a revelation. Heck, one of them even did his own work, asking for advice, lol! It was honestly like “coming home”. What has occurred is this: With the advent of landscaping “arriving” as a legitimate trade over the past 30 years or so, added to by the enormous growth of home building and construction in general, specializing in certain areas of Horticulture and Landscape Construction became do-able. In fact, these people became what I now deem as indispensable. The Sun Belt companies all got a leg up on this movement as the rest of the nation caught on, and the bloom of Landscape Associations prompted new and more intense focus on all issues of landscaping, from water usage and conservation to Insurance. As I got more interested, personally, I began shopping around to see companies I might use myself – and then, since I became an online “trade junky”, I began trying to find plain good businesses and what that meant.
I found these guys accidentally, getting a phone call from Drew – the owner’s son – who liked this blog. As we spoke, it became clear to me that this guy was intelligent, curious and very vested in landscaping. This Insurance Agent actually enjoyed the entire field and what he did for a living. Believe me, finding someone this committed to serving landscapers and maintenance people is rare and wonderful. We spoke of theft issues, compensation rates (going down), home owner vulnerabilities, the entire gamut of vulnerabilities and successes available to landscaping. I also found out they specialize in maintenance and tree businesses as well. To make a long story, longer, I was impressed enough to write about them, able to include them in a general discussion about insurance for Landscapers in general, which I have been wanting to do for a while.
A visit to their site sees a literal blog done by Drew, discussing such issues as Compensation Rate Changes in Florida, the virtue and reasons for Theft Insurance among many other trade-specific issues. A blog, lol!
I hearted him right away.
The fact is, finding someone devoted to their own business is always worth a look, just on its own. That they are a fresh and motivated business is not just gravy – it can actually make a difference in terms of Business planning and shopping for best rates. They seem to think they may move a bit Northward, out into the South in time, but I can say without reservation that, if I were in Florida, I would call them for quotes or even to plain discuss what articles a landscape business should insure and run ideas by them. This is a very informed, up-to-date group. Their curiosity and fresh approach won me over.
I’m adding BearWise Landscapers to my Blogroll in the “Resources” section because I believe what they are doing is state-of-the-art. Their blogging indicates an interest that includes late-breaking issues. It is well-written and informative and worth a look even by persons who are not in the trade, just to get an idea of what all this all means. For persons actually in the trade, they show some straight out acumen at the insurance business. The fact that they seem to actually care is huge.
I am impressed.