Years ago, a friend told me we were destined to live in a litigious society. My response was, “What does litigious mean?” My friend (who didn’t embarrass me for my ignorance) explained: Whatever you do, wherever you are, the legal community stands ready to sue you! In short, in our land of good and plenty, no one is safe from legal threat.
We’ve come a long way from the ’60s era of love and peace. It didn’t take long in my early business career to learn that all the lawyer jokes in the world weren’t meant to be funny; instead, they were intended to put a little icing on an already caustic truism of everyday reality. In other words: The yellow light is on. Time for caution is upon us; hand shakes and good intentions be damned!
Against the Odds
So how do you run a business without running into the “law”? Those of us who entered business world many years ago didn’t realize we would be so vulnerable. The thought of someone targeting us as an easy means to an end never crossed our minds. Even worse is the fact that the lawyer gets paid, win or lose. It doesn’t sound fair, but we didn’t make the laws; we’re just obligated to follow them.
The minute you decide to acquire a facility, be acquired, offer a product or service, or engage in anything that involves an exchange of value, you are locked into a contractual legal transaction. If you sign the dotted line without reading and fully understanding, guess what? You could be facing an embarrassing or catastrophic event. Whatever the outcome, it’s always costly, time-consuming and maddening. Industry is no place for the faint of heart.
When I first got into business, I made deals based on trust and a handshake. This may still be the protocol in some societies, but don’t be fooled into thinking you live in such a place. We must live by the adage: “A strong defense is a good offense.” Having the best protection for you and your business should not be considered a luxury but an absolute necessity.
Insurance to cover every aspect of your business, including liability, fire, casualty, business interruption and health is just the beginning. Every niche business has specific insurance for increased protection. Whether it’s a car wash, convenience store, self-storage facility or gas station, insurance companies have coverage to protect all angles.
In car-washing, it took years for the insurance industry to understand and tailor products to our needs. Decades ago, owners went to the industry associations for help. Their banning together prompted insurance specialists to focus on protection for car washes. Now coverage has evolved to include other business segments as well.
Here are a few words of wisdom: Shop around, negotiate for the best rates, and read all the fine print before signing on the dotted line for any insurance policy.