Running A Small Business – Here’s Why You Should Consider Insurance

I’ve run a small business from home for the past 6 or 7 years, in various forms. I thought I had a good handle on the various risks that could be involved with running a business, such as IR35 legislation in the UK, through to Public Liability, Professional Indemnity and of course Safe Workplace risk reduction and things like that.

I also have in place Life Insurance and Permanent Total Disability Insurance along with Income Protection Insurance. All these are of course good things to have in an uncertain world, to ensure your income is at least somewhat maintained if something awful should happen that means you can no longer work.

But, one form of insurance I never considered was Business Continuity Insurance. I figured that since I was running a small business that consisted of myself and my wife and we were both had life cover, and TPD cover that we’d covered off every eventuality. Of course, hindsight suggests you can never cover off every eventuality and there was one consideration we certainly missed. Which is where, Business Continuity Insurance could have stepped in.

Now, I am NOT an insurance expert, and I have no affiliations with any either. If you read this article and decide you ought to look into Business Continuity Insurance or covering off the aspects of business interruption I’m about to talk about, then you MUST speak to your Financial Advisor or Legal Advisor or Insurance Broker to find the best cover that’s suitable for you.

February 7th 2009. Anyone reading from Australia will probably know where I am heading with this. At about 4pm that afternoon our world went black, sooty, and very very hot. We’d moved all our important data and documents into a safer place just in case the Victorian Bushfire that approached that day, and made the headlines for weeks and months afterwards, came to get us.

The bushfire itself passed by us. We were one of the lucky ones. We watched it burn all around us for the night, and we waited for it to come through, but somehow we were protected. It was the weeks and months afterwards that affected us more than the fire itself. Being self employed in a local community that is devastated by natural disaster means that even though you’re not physically affected there are a myriad of reasons why you’re emotionally and financially affected. And, being in business means you’re extremely unlikely to receive any Government help because they cannot be seen to be giving an advantage to a business in the natural disaster zone over one which is outside the zone.

That’s what we found. There was almost no assistance for business after the Victorian Bushfire. This isn’t in any way a criticism of the Victorian or Federal Government, I understand the reasons their hands are tied. They did help us out personally, and Business Mentors were provided to help us navigate a way through, but there was no assistance financially to help us get through. Why does this matter?

There was no power for the first week.
The police had closed the road for weeks after the fire, so they could control who had access to and from the area.
We were not mentally capable of concentrating on business aspects for MONTHS.
A number of our clients lost everything and no longer wanted what we offered.

So for months we had little to no income, and little interest due to the emotions of the event for generating an income. As a result, over a year later we’re still playing catch up. Credit cards are maxxed – mortgage is maxxed – a number of key assets have been sold in order to meet the commitments. It’s not pretty.

We NEVER considered that we’d be caught up in a natural disaster. And if you’re thinking ‘Its ok, even if we are in a natural disaster, the Government will look after us’ then think again if you’re in business. If you’re in business it’s YOUR responsibility to plan for the unplannable. Aid agencies and governments quite rightly focus on the citizens of their jurisdiction. Business will not be given a leg up because, at least in the Western Capitalist world, there is international trading legislation which forbids subsidies to most businesses – and that’s how the legal eagles see financial assistance such as this. And to be honest that’s only right and fair. If you take the bounty when times are good you have to take the pain when they’re not.

If you’re running a small business, whether it be from home or an office, you really do need to consider Business Continuity Insurance so that if the worst happens, you won’t end up falling (too far) behind. If we could do it again, we’d have had Business Continuity Insurance on Feb 7th.

I’d like to say a very public thank you to New Horizons Whittlesea church, The Salvation Army, Combined Churches of Whittlesea and Linfox and the Clayton Bushfire Relief Warehouse because without each of these, our family would be out on the street now with no home to live in.

Be Fire Ready, If You’re In a Bushfire Prone Area

Introduction – Who Should Be Fire Ready?

This article is a little odd for my blog perhaps, but there’s a reason. Actually there’s a couple of reasons.

I went through the Victorian bushfire last year, the worst natural disaster in Australian history where 173 people died and thousands were displaced from their homes. Many of those still aren’t able to return as they’ve not yet finalised the details of their rebuild for various reasons. Some of course choose not to come back to the bushfire prone areas and have instead moved to the suburbs.

But even in the suburbs you still need a bushfire plan. The Victorian bushfires of February 2009 that tore through Kinglake, Marysville and half of the Murrindindi Shire, were accompanied by other fires on the day, including one in Narre Warren. The fire in Bendigo on the same day was in a suburban area and destroyed a number of homes, partially I’m sure because people in that area believed they were safe because they were in a suburban area.

Fire-Ready is implemented in CS-Cart

This is where the latest site that I’ve been working on for a customer, fire-ready.com.au comes in. They supply everything you need to help ensure that on the day when bushfire threatens your property and family, you’ll be ready. Fire Ready. Why am I writing about this? Well because I think the site is also a showcase CS-Cart site. It took some doing and lots of blood sweat and tears, but I believe it proves the amazing flexibility of the CS-Cart engine.

How was it done?

The site originated from the original CS-Cart skin – the basic skin. It was then stripped bare, to remove some of the display items that were not needed, and it went through a few iterations while I figured out the best way to tinker with CS-Cart. It soon became clear that one should always try to work within the CS-Cart framework, so I had to learn how to design and code my own blocks, so that these could be added and moved around as the customer required. Although some of the design elements do not lend themselves to being moved around, the CS-Cart engine is strongly oriented towards blocks and rather than hack up the skins to a degree that would make them unsupportable I chose to do these likely unmovable elements as blocks as well.

The CS-Cart knowledgebase is a very handy resource, although unfortunately it is missing a considerable amount of information. But it’s a good place to start learning how to do your own addons and blocks.

I started to write a blog article about how to write CS-Cart blocks, but its quite a complex subject and the article requires some extra editing that I’ve since learned so I will release that shortly and come back here to link to it so others can share the love. But, once you get your head around the CS-Cart architecture it’s really very nice to work with.

One principle that I will share here and now however is that one should never, ever, alter the core CS-Cart files. This is something I’ve learned from the WordPress world, and in some ways programming a CS-Cart skin is a little like working with a WordPress theme. The actual building blocks are very different – CS-Cart uses the Smarty Template System for instance, which WordPress does not – but the architectural decisions are fairly similar. So, you can create your own AddOns (which you’ll just about need to if you want to create your own blocks), which can ‘hook’ into aspects of the CS-Cart functionality using either your own pre/post controller code, or using CS-Cart hooks. Each mechanism has its own pros and cons, which I’ll also try to go into in my next CS-Cart article.

One small thing to note here, if you’re starting to look into writing your own blocks and require access in PHP code to the template variables, you may be tempted to use the Smarty method ‘get_template_vars‘. Don’t. CS-Cart overrides the Smarty object and provides a number of its own methods – most of which are very good and make life a lot easier for you. But there’s also this gotcha – when you use $view->assign, the code internally uses the PHP htmlspecialchars() function to escape any data that may be contained in your template data. However, CS-Cart rather curiously have not overridden the get_template_vars method, instead choosing to create a new method call get_var(). This means that if you use get_template_vars() to get something from the template data it will not be unescaped. If you then re-assign it after you manipulate it, it’ll be DOUBLE ESCAPED. This took me a while to find. Instead, use the CS-Cart provided get_var() function which will unescape your template object for you so that when you manipulate it and put it back it won’t be double escaped.

Anyway, that’s enough for this article for now, please do visit the fire-ready.com.au website, particularly if you’re in Australia and in a bushfire prone area because I believe the website is definitely worth a look.