No-one will sue me or blame me

Posted by on 27 December, 2014 No comments as yet

Business is easier to do when people are getting on yet it pays to keep everyone happy when relationships start to falter. This article is about money, the fact that it talks when opinions differ and why it is a foreign language for some.

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I’ve had an idea…..but I can’t do it on my own

 

Inventors are not just stuck in sheds. Some of them are hugely creative and have big idea after big idea. I am contacted by inventors when they want to protect an idea they’ve created. Most of them are in “start-up” mode and it takes time for the income to pour in.

However, they still need services to help them lift off and it is not uncommon to reach bartering agreements or agree profit or equity shares with those that help them out. Wonderful isn’t it? In an ideal World, yes, in the real World it depends. Recently, I’ve been contacted by two different companies who both had similar issues with such agreements . They were both being taken to court when such “contracts” had gone sour, they were very loose unwritten agreements.

We can’t agree about everything

 

But it pays to sit down and agree the basics. The first indication that something was going wrong was the receipt of a legal document outlining a case of a service provided that hadn’t been paid for. In each case the inventor thought they had “come to an agreement” yet the complainant asserted that nothing had been written down and they expected a prompt realisation of profits, which is rare. Both inventors were upset as well as being annoyed. One was being asked for £40,000 in fees for work they had “ordered”. The other was being invoiced for £18,000 fees for time spent “assisting” the start-uo.

Even after the first legal notice was issued, the inventor contacted the person that was “owed” the £40,000 and came to another agreement. They were somewhat surprised to learn, soon after, that the complainant had obtained a judgement against them and bailiffs were chasing them for money they didn’t have. Sometimes, the courts do odd things. Launching an appeal has proved fruitless for at lease one company facing a wind up order. Their business was closed down by a judge before the appeal date arrived. It is beyond belief.

You owe me, I sue you

 

Eventually, the money was found yet it had been earmarked for marketing so the launch had to be delayed in one case. The debts were paid when they may not have been legally liable to pay them. They were forced to settle because they didn’t have the resources to defend themselves.

Defending yourself doesn’t have to be ridiculously costly but it does take up time. High quality legal resources have to be paid for. It’s not only about what you sign, it’s about what you agree.  Verbal agreements are often considered binding by one party and failure to defend a corner means louder voices are likely to be heard. The balance between defending and paying up doesn’t always leave defendants between a rock and a hard place. I have plenty of clients who have successfully defended  spurious allegations.

Wrap up; Contracts aren’t always big documents and verbal agreements are often taken seriously. It’s really difficult to juggle all the tasks when unexpected legal issues arise. Not to mention the upset if you don’t know where to turn.

Top tip; Do not ignore issues that are on the “too difficult list”. They have a habit of resurfacing  and investor shareholders hate that too. It is not fair but the deepest pockets usually win.

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Categories : After The Event,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Design Insurance,Domian name protection,Intellectual Property Insurance,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Patent Insurance,Trade Secret Protection,Trademark Insurance Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Serviced Offices- The Possibility of Data Pilferage

Posted by on 30 August, 2014 No comments as yet

An interesting thought on the the possibility of data pilferage and how easy it may be for someone who services your office.

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So how many of us think our serviced offices are secure?

 

Work finishes, you tidy up and go home. Thousands, perhaps millions of us do this every day. Next day, you have a clean place to work. Magic!

But what happens in between. The magic is not automatic. People do arrive and clean. But how do they get in?

Keys of course, the same keys as you use to lock the door behind you and open it in front of you. Oh no, you might say, we don’t pay for the cleaners…..we do it ourselves. The cleaners might not know that.

Not a problem for most yet when the IT is down or the phone bill is up, people start asking questions

A massive phone bill will be noticed. The issue is the unnoticed. Data pilferage is on the increase. Cleaning companies don’t pay their staff a living wage so they’re susceptible to offers of bribes or worse. Imagine that, the lowest paid workers in the entire EU and they’re wondering around our offices unaided.

Of course the massive company that you pay for cleaning recruit the best. They’re recruitment process is second to none. That’s why they “lost” security guards just before the Olympics. Because they are so well organised. Fail.

Check your insurance!

 

If you are looking for insurance on a serviced office, check that the security requirements don’t mean your doors have to be locked before they pay for a break in. Or keep the cleaners out by sticking a hotel style “not today thank you” sign on your door.

Wrap up: Those offering you office space will tell you what they want you to hear in order to select their space so ensure you dig deeper to find out about the insurance history of the premises.

Top tip: The locks on offices ain’t London are woefully inadequate when compared to the locks insurance companies require. If it needs to be replaced, get the landlord to replace it before you sign on the dotted line. Use it as a bargaining chip.

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Property Managing Agents- Part of our fees are for NOT arranging cover

Posted by on 16 August, 2014 No comments as yet

A shameful article about Property Managing Agents failing their client when looking after their property, favouring one leaseholder over another and, critically, failing to arrange insurance despite collecting the premium.

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Treating customers fairly?

 

I have claims to make, yet no service

 

I first met Paul at breakfast and found him hugely charming and terrible engaging. Not many people will dance their way through a presentation yet that’s exactly what he did. We clicked and discussed many things other than dance and risk reduction.

He introduced me to Gail who was having difficulty getting any service from their property’s managing agent – it was a terraced house in central London split into four apartments – despite water leaks needing to be fixed and repairs to her flat undertaken. Gail explained that the Property Managing Agents were so unresponsive they had decided to start their own company and take matters in-house. However, they had already paid for an annual insurance and wanted to make a claim.

There’s no cover!

 

For the right person, I am always happy to take over a policy and ensure that the claim is settled fairly. Gail and her neighbours authorised me to do this and Axa Insurance acknowledged receipt of our letter within days of it being submitted. It then slowed down and despite many calls Axa were unresponsive.

Another leaseholder raised the urgency when a lender requested evidence of insurance in order to authorise a remortgage. We pressed the Axa panic button, making contact with the most senior contact we have at that insurer and were told in hushed tones “the Property Managing Agent did not pay the premium so we cancelled the cover…..last year”. What is it about people not being able to bring themselves to give you bad news? I’ve never shot a messenger in my life.

All systems go!

 

I arranged an alternative within minutes of Gail authorising me to do so. We are talking about a property close to £1,000,000 with a history of water damage so it’s lucky we know which insurers want to cover these. Axa were unable to help in the timescale required! The annual investment was settled by credit card and documents were sent to the lender to ensure funds were released in time.

Gail has been trying to obtain a refund, to no avail, and is going to the Insurance Ombudsman. I fully expect the Property Managing Agent to be struck off the FCA register although I doubt their governing body will prevent them managing properties. The saddest thing is that it appears that one of the leaseholders is loosely connected to the fraudsters so it is a tricky scenario. They are an absent landlord and their lack of care in selecting tenants is causing problems for all the residents, not to mention their neighbours. Legal process is the only avenue open to them yet that has already started.

Wrap up: Leaseholders have a right to know where their fees are being spent. If you ask an agent what they are earning from insurance they have to tell you. They can be struck off for remaining silent.

Top Tip: Some Property Managing Agents charge ridiculously low fees but they top them up with hidden charges in insurance premiums. It has been know for them to cream 40% off the top and an accountant I know recovered £80,000 in fraudulent fees from a particularly deceitful company.

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How T&C’s Can Really Help Businesses

Posted by on 2 August, 2014 No comments as yet

What THEY think they can get is what’s important!

 

This article is all about perception, how T&C’s can really help businesses warn off chancers and how a good set will dovetail with insurance.

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Treating customers fairly?

 

Derek had been a client for some years when he called and advised “I’ve received a rather worrying letter from a temp I placed”. It appeared their placement wasn’t going to be renewed and they wanted Derek to pay them for not having any work. Although the company that had employed them told the temp it was because “someone else had returned to work”, they told Derek “off the record, they were rude and argumentative”.

Derek was concerned that the relatively new “AWR” regulations had given the temp the feeling that they could gain compensation. We were aware of changes in regulations before they came into place, Derek and I had discussed the implications and he agreed to put protection for the business in place when they came into reality.

A legal eagle will correct me here if I’m wrong

 

The regulations give temporary workers the same rights as permanent employees after they had been employed for 12 weeks. Regrettably, this has caused some employers to “use” people for a limited time and then replace them unceremoniously. There is always a downside when employer regulations change. It generated more income for temp agencies yet also increased the risk of them getting dragged into what are, in reality, disputes between employer and employees.

After discussing with his insurers we were able to help Derek construct a reply which referred the complainant to the T&C’s they had previously agreed to. These made it clear that Derek’s company worked within the regulations yet were not responsible for maintaining their continuous employment.

Now go away……politely of course

 

The fact that they had tried to gain unwarranted compensation from his company meant Derek was well within business boundaries to remove the over aggressive temp from his register. If they had been less confrontational they may have kept their position or, at least, Derek would have recommended soft skills courses for them to undertake before he could redeploy them. People do change for a whole variety of reasons, their personal circumstances having a huge amount to do with their persona.

A salutary tale yet Derek was reminded how important it is to maintain great (rather than cordial) relationships with clients. This would ensure they were well informed when someone who interviewed brilliantly started to lose the plot. So it makes sense to protect a business and it’s directors before vindictive allegations or requests for compensation are made. Personal attacks are not a form of defence when employment disputes are raised so he was grateful he had people “on his side” to defend him to the hilt and pay compensation that tribunals feel is appropriate.

Wrap up: People change yet you can still ensure you’re not dancing with the devil by undertaking the right checks, as long as they are fair and balanced, into people’s backgrounds. Indeed, insurers help you with this when you avail yourself of their protection.

Top tip: Many plausible people have turned nasty and money certainly has a language of its own. The compensation culture is nothing new so tread carefully when it costs little, if anything, to mount a claim against a business. Don’t go overboard, ask your peers what the key risks are in their business.

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The Importance of Proper Stress Testing

Posted by on 16 July, 2014 No comments as yet

This article is about your supply chain, how their products can really let you down and what you can do about it.

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Stress Testing

 

I was recently delivering a workshop at a venue I had hired specially for the event. We were in full flow when there was a bang and a puff of smoke. It was either a laptop or a projector and a couple of button pushes determined it was the latter.

When we let the venue know a real look of disappointment crept across their assistants face. It wasn’t the only projector they had problems with yet it was the only one they had left, which meant we were bereft for the rest of the day.

Where did you get it?

 

I enquired about the supplier because I wanted to be sure I didn’t suffer the same fate. Our assistant was terribly apologetic yet I understood that technology can let you down especially when it is being used to its full capabilities. I hadn’t realised projectors got so hot that the bulbs would explode spontaneously.

I was more concerned that it was part of a bigger problem. The other projectors came from the same place had had had similar problems. I’m just glad that the problems were with the bulbs and didn’t affect the laptop. That would’ve been a real pain and highly embarrassing.

What can be done?

 

Those companies that rely on equipment to produce things run them at full pelt for a while before they bring them into use. It’s often called stress testing. You might not be reliant on equipment to produce a product, yet might rely on equipment when providing a service, so it makes sense to test it to distraction. In this case it would mean leaving a projector running for eight hours (if that’s how long your venue hire can be) before someone else does.

This would save the embarrassment of having to find an emergency replacement or even worse having to replace equipment nearby that was damaged when yours explodes. Luckily the projector manufacturers have fitted covers over the lens area. These covers worked well and prevented tiny fragments of glass getting anywhere. Do all your equipment have such covers?

Wrap up: We all are using some form of equipment, usually IT and it’s often technical. I don’t understand how my IT works yet I know how I can get an immediate replacement that sings and dances exactly the way my current equipment does. This means we’re productive at all times.

Top tip: We all rely on someone to do business, no business is an island. Have you stress tested your supply chain recently?

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Efficient insurance isn’t always friendly

Posted by on 23 June, 2014 No comments as yet

This article is about how improvements in technology should help providers improve the service to their clientèle. Read on to find out how IT has made life easier, where it has failed, and the backlash that is “in the post”.

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Treating customers fairly?

 

Recently I have been learning how to use a new IT system which will increase our efficiency and profit. The people showing us how to use the system are terribly nice and say some nice things, yet also some very surprising things. One that really did surprise me relates to the way the system allows us to meet all the compliance regulations that are bestowed upon us, by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) I was pleased to find that the system made our life easier when ticking the compliance boxes.

It was during a discussion about “treating customers fairly” (TCF) that I was so surprised. TCF involves doing what it says on the tin – making sure that the customer is at the centre of what you do. This ensures that they are well treated and their aims are met whilst your business meets its aims too. For me, this is the most valuable thing you can do in a business, because customers are always right and when they are wrong, its usually because they have not been well informed. This is a statement that most business owners don’t want to hear, yet when they are the customer they realise that it’s actually true.

What’s the surprise?

 

The comment that surprised me so much was after I complimented the trainers on showing us how to add efficiency into our compliant processes. Our training lady announced that no one usually cares about this, to which I exclaimed “pardon!” because I couldn’t believe that a sector so beaten and bowed by criticism still fails to take its customers’ rights seriously. I enquired what the lady meant by “no one usually cares” and she reiterated that all the other people she trains (all is probably an overstatement) find ways to avoid ticking the compliance box of TCF. I am not surprised that this happens, but I am surprised that it is an industry wide problem. However, it does explain one scenario that has puzzled me somewhat.

Why is it important?

 

When I first went “alone” I carried out research and found that a healthy percentage of people that had purchased insurance were not sure that it was right for them. This meant there were people who would find our service useful. This gave us immense confidence as we ploughed our furrow and provided a service that isn’t available to all. It still isn’t available to all, because we could not possible service the entire commercial insurance buying public, not by ourselves. But watch this space. We have no immediate plans to dominate the UK, yet what I have discovered over the last few years has shown us that the vast majority of people who buy insurance are not treated fairly. There is work for us to do in changing that. It is a challenge, but one I am ready for.

Wrap Up: Not all insurance policies are the same. Not insurance companies are the same. Not all businesses are the same. So ensure you get what you need, before you need it.

Top Tip: If ever you do have a problem with insurance ask your supplier how they are treating you fairly, whilst dealing with the problem.

 

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