Things are going to happen. Are you adequately covered?
By Ed Butts, PE
When I started writing Engineering Your Business more than 17 years ago, my intent was to pass on many of my personal good and bad experiences in water well and pump work, business, and engineering to help individuals with making difficult decisions and providing solutions to difficult problems.
Looking back, I realize most of my writing has centered around the subjects I know best, technical and engineering issues, while largely ignoring what is the final word in the column title—Business. So, this month we will take a respite from the technical topics and dive into an important but often ignored topic: business and personal insurance.
To be fair and as a disclaimer, the purpose of this piece is to underscore the importance of insurance programs while introducing the National Ground Water Association’s new insurance and benefits program.
Some Personal Background
The subject of business and personal insurance is certainly not the most exciting topic I could come up with to write about, but it’s as important any one I could ever cover. I have certainly experienced working with and around business and personal insurance from separate interests and viewpoints as both an employee and business owner—but most critically as a patient, parent, grandparent, friend, and spouse.
When I passed my first engineering exam, I decided to take the Mensa exam. For those who may not be familiar with Mensa, this is an organization whose membership criteria requires passing a test to demonstrate intelligence with a score needed roughly greater than 130, something achieved by about 2% of the population. Trust me, I was as surprised as anyone when I received a score of 152.
I’m not sharing to say how smart I think I am, but how exceptionally stupid and shortsighted I have been at times with such critical life components as insurance.
Around the time I took the Mensa test, I regarded insurance as no more than a “necessary but likely unneeded expense” and drain on company profits or personal funds.
When I wrote my first article about employee benefits and insurance in April 2004, I was 45 years old and had no idea I would still be writing this column, and my experience with benefit programs and insurance would take on a different role and importance in my life. Since that date, I have had a 14-year run of owning my engineering consulting firm, experienced three major surgeries, and watched intently as my grandson went through various minor and major medical procedures, including 20 surgeries.
So yes, I see and want to stress the intrinsic value and importance of acquiring and maintaining adequate, and just as importantly, proper insurance for everything from medical and health maintenance to personal liability, property protection, and disability for you and your family to general and business liability, workers compensation, automobile insurance, and errors and omission insurance for your business.
Many individuals, particularly those younger to middle-age, regard life insurance as the only mandatory type of insurance they need—required to protect their heirs from a potential financial disaster should an unfortunate event occur to the primary breadwinner. “After all,” they say, “I’ll never get sick or injured at my age.”
The truth is an unfortunate event, illness, or catastrophic disease can befall any of us at any time, and like it or not, we must be prepared to deal with this on an emotional, medical, and financial level.
If you need to avail yourself to the benefits from insurance someday, the cost you paid for the insurance will be peanuts compared to the potential fallout from inadequate, or worse yet, no insurance coverage at all.
This is especially true for disability insurance, since as I approach official senior status, my body constantly rebels against me every day in ways I once never thought it would. Increasing health issues such as vision decline, back problems, and diabetes have begun to creep into my life, unthinkable just a few short years ago.
Please understand I am trying to warn you, particularly if you’re one of the young ones in our industry, that for lack of a better phrase, sh*# really does happen, so you better be ready for it!
NGWA Insurance Program
NGWA recently introduced its Business Insurance and Employee Benefits program. It is a comprehensive program offering benefits from various insurance firms for business and personal insurance—including life, health, long- and short-term disability, accidental death and dismemberment, dental, vision, workers compensation, auto and home, pollution, umbrella, and general business and personal liability. It even has cyber risk and errors and omission insurance for those of us in the technical and consulting arena.
I reviewed the various types of available coverage and other services offered and compared it to policies I currently have or once had in personal and business coverage. I’ll say I truly believe this new program offers NGWA members significant benefits and potential premium savings only a plan with this type of comprehensive scale and diversity can provide.
In addition to the scope of available plans, I was also impressed many of the programs are oriented and offered as “employee voluntary” programs with optional employer/employee/mutual co-pay types of premium payment plans to provide flexibility for small and large contractors.
In addition to the diverse insurance plans offered in this program, the NGWA program also offers business management, human resources, and payroll assistance—including employee handbook preparation, payroll services, tax preparation and filing, and more.
I will be the first to admit I don’t have the ready answers as to how much and what type of insurance a specific individual or business should acquire; that’s what insurance agents and brokers are for.
And before anyone develops the cynical viewpoint I must be a paid endorser (I should be so lucky!), let me put your mind at ease. I do not receive any compensation for endorsing this program beyond what I receive for my regular column. I simply feel this type of offering is the epitome of what member benefits should be and am pleased to see NGWA obviously agrees.
Not simply sitting and resting on their laurels, after reaching out and gaining valuable input from members, the NGWA staff and its Board of Directors have recognized what members truly need and have done an excellent job of seeking out and obtaining cost-effective alternatives to what you may currently have.
So, go ahead and compare the benefits and premiums to what you currently have. What have you got to lose? If these programs save money while providing better coverage at the same time, isn’t that a win-win?
Learn more about the NGWA program on its website or call (800) 551-7379 or (614) 898-7791.
I hope your holiday season is pleasant, safe, and sane. As always and until next month, work safe and smart.
Ed Butts, PE, is the chief engineer at 4B Engineering & Consulting, Salem, Oregon. He has more than 40 years of experience in the water well business, specializing in engineering and business management. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.