Archive for the ‘Administration’ Category

Setting up shop… some questions…

From the mailbag: Just last week an engineering colleague (and reader of this blog) announced he was making his own JumpToConsulting. Way to go, Glen!

His announcement e-mail also had several specific questions. After addressing them, I decided to share my comments here.

(1) Quotations & Proposals

We use a two page format. The first page defines the project and tasks, and the second contains “boiler plate” such as terms, rates, etc. That makes it easy to respond – just fill in the blanks on page 1.

Here is a sample, which we send on a letterhead:

****** Quotation ******

Client: XYZ Corp.
1234 Main Street
Somewhere, AZ XXXXX
ATTN: John Smith

Purpose: The client designs and manufacturers military doodads, and is failing MIL-STD-461 radiated emissions tests.

Tasks: The consultant, an electrical engineer specializing in EMI/EMC design and troubleshooting, will assist XYZ as follows:
– On site troubleshooting and reviews at XYZ facility in Somewhere, AZ
– Optional summary report (4-8 pages typical)

Schedule: By mutual agreement (or actual date if scheduled)

Budget: $XXXXX, based on 5 days (4 days on site plus 1 day travel time) plus estimated travel expenses of $2,500. Add $XXXX for optional report.

Please note this is a budgetary estimate. Actual time and expenses will be invoiced. Quotation will not be exceeded without prior client approval.

Terms: Net 30 upon invoice. Purchase order and advance travel retainer of $2500 prior to travel. Quotation valid for 60 days.

Daryl Gerke, PE                                                              April 3, 2014
Kimmel Gerke Associates, Ltd.
EMC Consulting Engineers

I don’t believe in lengthy contracts (keep it simple.) But if you are doing a longer term project, more detail might be needed such as progress payments, etc.

Some companies will have their own consulting agreements. Don’t hesitate to change them if there is something you don’t like.

For example, we remove any limitations on working for others. There is nothing proprietary about what we do. If we limited ourselves to one computer company/one medical company/etc. we’d be out of business in a year.

We do sign standard NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements) as long as they do not contain any non-compete restrictions.

(2) Business Insurance

You will probably need a General Liability insurance policy, which most companies now require. We got ours through an insurance broker – about $800/year for two of us. Your accountant or attorney can recommend a broker.

You may or may not need Errors and Omissions insurance. Also known as malpractice insurance, it depends on your area of expertise. Although we are engineers, we don’t carry O&E as our area has little risk of litigation. If we were civil engineers or architects, however, we’d carry it.

(3) Business Bank Account

You also need to set up a separate business bank account. You may need to wait until you have incorporated depending on the bank.

Incidentally, I recommend having an attorney handle an incorporation. Don’t do it yourself to save a few bucks. The attorney will recommend the best legal structure for you – LLC, Sub-Chapter S, C Corporation, etc. The attorney can also handle filings, registrations, and tax documents and IDs.

Finally, these administrative details are pretty simple. The big issue is the marketing – getting the business. But for smooth operations, now is the time to get these details in place.

P.S. Got a question? Drop me a line through the ASK DARYL page.

Copyright © 2015, All rights reserved.

More Insurance Comments

How I handle my insurance …

This post is a quick continuation of the previous post on insurance, as someone asked how I handle my personal insurance needs.  My philosophy is to self-insure the small losses, and put the premium savings into higher coverage. As such, I carry larger deductibles than most subsidized policies, but still get reasonable rates.

Since I am approaching the right age for Social Security/Medicare, I am currently reviewing all my insurance. I’m not on Medicare yet, but have just started to look into the myriad of supplemental plans and options. Oh, it is great fun being a “boomer.”

Health Insurance Individual policy from a major health carrier for my wife and me, with a major medical rider. We have a moderately high deductible, and we do not carry dental insurance. As such, we self-insure the first several thousand dollars, but may save even more in reduced premiums. When we become eligible for Medicare, we’ll switch with the appropriate supplemental policies.

Life InsuranceTwo term policies. The first is through my professional organization, and the second is a personal policy. Incidentally, the professional organization policy is much cheaper. I elected to have two policies as a backup, in case the professional organization coverage changed.

Disability Insurance Long Term Disability from my professional organization, with reasonable rates due to a six month waiting period. No Short Term Disability policy – I self insure for that.  I recently dropped the disability policy, as I am now eligible for early social security. As such, should I become disabled, I would simple retire early and start collecting  social security.

Liability Insurance — I carry General Business Liability through a broker. The annual cost is reasonable, and often required by clients. I do not carry Errors and Omissions insurance, since there is low potential liability in my particular business. If I felt I needed it, it is available from my professional organization. Finally, on my lawyer’s advice, I do business as a corporation. (You should review your liability concerns with your attorney.)

Other business insurance — I have a rider on my homeowner’s policy that covers computers and other office equipment used in my home, as these are exempt from my standard policy. I also have a blanket umbrella policy on the home/auto policies.

My goal is to self insure the small risks my self, and insure for the larger but less likely risks. If I never personally collect any money from an insurance company, that is fine with me.  Not collecting means I have been lucky enough to avoid some pretty serious problems. (Even life insurance — that is there for my dependents, not me.)

But don’t depend on luck — as a business person, you need to manage risks!

Copyright © 2015, All rights reserved.

Insurance Questions

So what is it about insurance (particularly health insurance) that spooks so many people?

After the Four Key Questions (a previous blog post), this is probably number five. The question is usually posed as, “So how do YOU handle insurance?”

For many, this issue is a potential show-stopper from making the Jump to Consulting. It need not be, and the answer is simple. You buy it — it is simply a cost of doing business, just like a computer or a copier. Furthermore, since it is tax deductible, you buy it with pretax dollars just like the big guys do.

Sure, the cost may seem like a lot, particularly if you are currently in a company subsidized plan. But in reality, you are already paying for it as part of your benefits package. Although you don’t see it in your paycheck, your employer certainly sees it as part of your overall compensation. As the old saying goes, “their ain’t no free lunch…”

Although health insurance is usually the main concern, you likely need several other types of insurance, including disability, life, and liability. Here are some comments.

Health Insurance – Even if you are young and healthy, you need health insurance. This is particularly true if you have a family or other dependents. Without health insurance, one accident or a bout of cancer can mean financial ruin. No, I’m not in the insurance business. Just get the insurance — it is the responsible thing to do!

Thanks to the recent government health legislation, medical insurance should be easier to obtain for individuals and small businesses. (This is not a political statement — just my opinion.) I’ve know several people who might be consulting today, were it not for a past medical condition that made them or their family uninsurable. Hopefully, that has now changed.

I suggest a basic, no frills plan, with as high a deductible as you can stand. If you are mathematically inclined, you can figure out the level at which you are no longer paying someone else to handle your money. As a bonus, if you don’t meet the deductible, the money you might have spent on a premium is still in your pocket.

You should consider a major medical rider, although with the new legislation, this may no longer be needed. You should also consult your accountant about tax preferred medical savings plans to see if one makes sense for you.

Life Insurance - If you are young and/or have a family, you also need life insurance. On the other hand, if you are single, retired, and/or the kids are all raised, this may no longer be important. This insurance is not for you — this is for those who depend on your income.

I suggest term insurance, which generally gives you the most bang for the buck. Yes, insurance sales people will emphasize the accruing monetary benefits of whole life plans, but do you want insurance, or do you want a savings plan? Remember, insurance is there to mitigate risks.

Also remember the sales agent is working on commission, and makes more money on a whole life policy. The younger you are, the more affordable and reasonable the term insurance.

Disability Insurance – Like life insurance, you definitely need this if you have others depending on your income. But even if you are single with no dependents, you still may want to consider disability insurance. The real question is, “What are you going to live on if you become incapacitated?”

I suggest a long term disability plan, with a waiting period of six months or more. Like any high deductible,  a longer waiting period reduces policy costs. As far as short term disability, I’ve only carried that when offered by an employer and have never purchased it directly for myself. Set up a rainy day savings account to self insure for the short term risks.

Liability Insurance – If you are dealing with corporate clients, you will likely be required to show proof of general liability insurance. This typically covers risks like slipping on the customer’s icy sidewalk, or driving your car into their lobby. Their goal is for you to have insurance in place to minimize the need for legal action if something bad happens during a consultation.

Depending on your business, you may also need additional specialized liability insurance. Two examples are a physician’s malpractice insurance, or an architect’s error and omissions insurance. These are often available from professional organizations. You should definitely discuss the liabilty issues with your attorney.

Other insurance – You may want to consider other insurance offerings, such as coverage for expensive equipment or business interruptions. Keep in mind that your homeowner’s policy probably does not cover business related issues. Check this out with your insurance agent.

Here are some final thought on insurance. Shop around, as prices will vary. If you belong to a professional organization, they often offer individual plans at group rates.

One way to simplify your insurance needs is to find a good insurance broker. You want someone who specializes in small business insurance, which may or may not rule out your personal home/auto agent. Check with your accountant or attorney for a recommendation, or ask other small business owners. A good insurance broker can be a very valuable ally.

Well, I hope this has helped put insurance in its proper perspective. As I learned from a wise old college professor many years ago, “The goal of insurance is to protect yourself against the big losses, not the small losses. You can cover the small losses, but the big losses can wipe you out.”

Good advice today, too.

Copyright © 2015, All rights reserved.