Why it's smart to buy insurance before you launch your small business

September 12, 2011

Learning from those who have seen it all before is one of the smartest things you can do as an entrepreneur. So here’s a heads up: in a survey we conducted of small U.S. businesses, 72% said a startup should have small business insurance from the moment it’s launched.

The 501 small business executives who responded to the survey have plenty of experience of what are the right things and the wrong things to do when setting out on your own. Here’s their list of the biggest mistakes small businesses make when buying insurance:

  • 37% said the biggest mistake was not understanding what their policy covers
  • 17% said another major slip-up was not shopping around to find the best price for their insurance
  • 16% said not buying a business insurance policy that is tailored to their line of business was their main regret

Your homeowner’s policy usually doesn’t cover your business if it’s based at home, and if it does, the coverage may be limited.

A common myth is that if you’re small, you don’t have risks (or that your risks are so small you don’t need to worry about them). This is not true; your business could incur legal liabilities many times more than even your best projections provide. This year, small businesses are forecast to pay $152 billion in tort liability costs, according to the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. Defending yourself against claims is stressful, time-consuming, and expensive, and most small business owners can’t do it on their own.

Small businesses can protect themselves and still keep their overhead down, as the cost of a customized insurance policy can be less than $25 a month.  The time and effort you take to find a policy that properly fits your needs will be well worth it if you ever need to make a claim.

Every firm should look for a policy that suits their own business’s needs, but there are two types of coverage no business should be without – general liability and professional liability insurance (also known as errors and omissions insurance).

If you have employees, you should also consider getting workers’ compensation insurance. It’s a legal requirement in every state except Texas, but businesses there can still be liable for any job-related illness or injury, so many companies in Texas choose to buy the coverage to be on the safe side.

When shopping for small business liability insurance, it’s important to take into account the financial health of the insurer as well as its particular strengths, like their ability to understand your business and your insurance needs.  Many aspects of starting and growing your own business are uncertain, but protecting it and your assets can give you the peace of mind to focus your attention on what you do best – making your business a success.