Who’s in your family tree?

family-tree

Do you ever wonder who you are?  Where you come from?  If your family history has anything to do with how you were raised and why you think the way you do?  I have always found genealogy an interesting topic.  My sister was more of the researcher; she was really into tracing our roots as far back as she could.  She became so involved that she would go to graveyards and record the gravestones to put on websites and help other people tracing their roots, too.

While I was always interested, I never really thought much about it until I came across some of my sister’s items last week.  Inside a box full of books were pictures of my father when he was very little.  But what really caught my eye was a copy of his adoption paperwork.  I knew my dad was adopted but we never talked about it.  All of a sudden, here was this paperwork – and it was so interesting to see how they handled adoptions back in the 1940s.  Just a simple typed piece of paper with so much information.  My dad actually lived an entire year with a completely different name!  I found that so odd, to think of him having a name other than Jim.

Once I found that document I wanted to see what else I could find about who my father’s real parents were.  I’m currently looking to see if my sister had that information.  I can fully see why people get caught up in researching their history, though.  Have you seen the TV show Who Do You Think You Are?  I’ve caught it a few times and it’s so interesting.

If you’re ever thinking of looking back through your family’s history, here are a few tips:

  1. Start by talking to your family. Someone may have a family tree broken out somewhere or even own a family bible that has births and deaths written inside.  Many of your older relatives will remember who was related to whom, places people lived, or other vital information.  Stories told from person to person can have interesting information that end up being important to researching your history.
  2. Search newspaper archives for stories or births, deaths, and marriage announcements on your family members.
  3. Search the US Census. This is the largest resource for locating your family and their history.  Start with one or two families in your family tree to help you organize your research.  If you begin with smaller pieces it helps create the larger family picture.
  4. Other places to search: Military records, Immigration records (ship passenger lists), Land records, and Naturalization records.
  5. Try websites such as ancestry.com I know this is where my sister found a lot of information…she even found a relative of ours in England who helped fill out our family tree a bit more!

I’m a history buff, so knowledge of my roots and where my family comes from really goes hand in hand.  We’ve traced our tree all the way back to Mary, Queen of Scots!  If you’re thinking about researching your family’s history I wish you luck!  It’s always fun to see what turns up.

cathyCathy Thurber has over 10 years’ experience in the insurance industry and likes to think she’s learned a few things along the way, one of which being to not take herself too seriously.  She would love to say she has as many cool expertise’s as her fellow blogger, Ken Kukral, but she’s just not as old as him.  Cathy is a voracious reader and a total word nerd.  Most importantly, she’s been married to her favorite person for almost twenty years and has two kids that she actually likes.  However, the dog is her favorite child and she’s been wheedling for a cat for years.  Perhaps this is the lucky year?

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10 Celebrities Who Have Insured their Body Parts

2014 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals

Celebrities insuring their most valuable assets is not an uncommon thing. Taylor Swift being the most recent to take out a policy on a body part… $40 million for her legs. Here are some other celebrities who have gotten insurance for their miscellaneous money makers!

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Keith Richards: $1.6 Million for his hands

America Ferrara: $10 Million dollar smile

David Beckham: $70 Million dollars on his legs

Jennifer Lopez: $300 Million for her booty

Troy Polamalu: $1 Million for his hair

Gene Simmons: $1 Million for his tongue

Julia Roberts: $30 Million dollar Smile

Bruce Springsteen: $6 Million dollars for his voice

Mariah Carey: $1 BILLION dollars for her legs

jenJen Monroe serves as the International Excess Marketing Director (duties include but not limited to: Graphic Design, Web Design, Marketing and Social Media, as well as part time blogger). Jen has a love for all things art, Cleveland sports (Go Cavs!), New Kids on the Block, pugs (specifically her smiley pup, Joss) and fat cat, Delonte. Oh, and french fries– you gotta’ love french fries. 

Are we preparing our clients for an audit?

Audit_opener

Over the years I have been involved with many policy audit situations and I wonder how well we really prepare our clients for an audit.  Understanding that most Workers’ Compensation and General Liability policies are written on a “deposit premium” basis, do our clients realize that?

Having once collected a $1,000,000 audit on a $60,000 account, I realized early that audits had to be handled properly, each and every time.  I think if we better prepare our clients, the audit process will go even smoother.  Ultimately we want the client to be happy and have their expectations met and don’t want any surprises.

Some things I learned along the way:

  • Read your carrier contracts. Over the years I have read over a 100 brokerage and carrier contracts.  MOST of them address audits and how they will be handled.  They set the procedures and timelines that you have to follow or you could become liable for the audit premium of your clients!  I don’t know about you, but there are less than a handful of clients that I would GUARANTEE that the audit premium was collectible and I would pay it whether or not I was paid.  But I can’t tell you how many times the brokerage or carrier contract said I was responsible for collection of the audit premium, even if it was uncollectible from the client!  This literally the first thing I look for in a contract!
  • Procedures for handling of audits for each of your markets needs to be spelled out and followed to a T. In fact I recommend that a specific management person be in control of this procedure and be responsible for tracking audits.  Ultimately if the procedures are not followed, the owners may be the ones on the hook for the audit premium if it becomes uncollectable.
  • Audit premiums are “extremely” collectible. By this I mean that when an insured is taken to court to collect, the carrier is almost always successful in getting a judgment in their favor (collecting the judgment is a separate matter if the insured has gone out of business).  So it is worth the effort to try and help the carrier collect the audit since you will make commission on the premium if you are successful.  Once collected, it goes towards your “earned premium” with the carrier immediately and can help improve your loss ratio with them.
  • It is worth understanding how the premium basis is computed. Just because payroll may be the general liability premium basis, all payrolls should not be included.  For many classes, executive and clerical payroll (sometimes sales payroll) is excluded.  I have been able to get significant return premiums for clients from past carriers by pointing this out.  It helps to solidify a relationship with that client when you help get them money back by pointing this out.  In fact an “old timer” once told me that with any new client, you should do a three year look back (the normal timetable in policies of how far back a carrier or client can go on audits) at how their premium basis was computed and detect if there have been any prior mistakes.  There are a number of other excluded payroll rules (like how to count over time) and you should make yourself aware of them.
  • One carrier we represented used an “audit letter” (The letter explained the premium basis, showing what premium basis they used and showed how the rate times the premium basis resulted in the deposit premium). They found that if they took a little extra time up front to educate the client, their audit collectability went up significantly.  It also provided a document they could use in court that would show the insured understood the audit provision of the policy, that if their premium basis increased during the policy that they would be responsible for additional premium and that they signed off on this.
  • Stay in contact with your clients during the policy term. If you notice you are issuing a significant number of bonds or certificates for clients on new business they were awarded, ask the question on how this will affect their premium basis.  Make sure they are setting aside funds during these times so they aren’t left scrambling at audit payment time.
  • Make sure clients understand the term “minimum and deposit”. Simply put this means they can only have an additional premium audit and never a return premium audit.  Trying to get a carrier to soften a minimum and deposit endorsement or waive it after conclusion of a policy is nearly impossible.  If they learn early on that they didn’t get a number of contracts they were expecting and the premium basis will be significantly reduced, get a hold of the carrier at that time and see if they are willing to make adjustments.  They might be willing to drop the minimum & deposit percentage to help out.  It can’t hurt to ask.

Too many times audits come as a total surprise to a client.  It makes for a wedge between the agent and the client that many times results in the loss of the account.  It doesn’t have to be that way if we prepare them up front and make the client understand how their insurance works.  Pay as you go workers compensation has eliminated the need for audits and has taken the guessing game out of projecting premium basis.  This may be something worth exploring in the future.

Hopefully, some of these tips may help and take away some of the angst and frustrations with audits in the future.  Happy collecting!

Ken KukralWith over 25 years of experience in the insurance industry, Ken Kukral has developed expertise in: Complex and larger accounts, Casualty Insurance, Property Insurance, Inland Marine Insurance, Professional Liability Insurance, Directors & Officers Liability Insurance, Employment Practices Liability Insurance, Products Liability Insurance, Product recall Insurance, Insurance Program Development, Surplus Lines Regulation, Coverage Analysis, Difficult Insurance Placements, Excess and Umbrella Insurance, Carrier Contract Acquisition, Unique or “one of a kind” insurance solutions, Association Leadership and Association Management, Insurance Sales and Marketing. For questions about this topic, or to have an exposure looked at, contact Ken directly at kennethkukral@intlxs.com

Valentine’s Day… A Day for Lovers or Just Another Day?

Valentine’s Day is a hot topic for people in love and singles alike… some, treat it like it’s the Super Bowl of holidays, and others despise the mention of the day itself. It is no surprise that some consider it a commercialized holiday, when many of the expectations for celebrating include but are not limited to: chocolates, flowers, fancy dinner reservations, jewelry gifts etc. On the other hand, a lot of people just love a reason to celebrate love.  I decided to poll everyone at our office, to find out their thoughts on the holiday. I got quite the mix of answers:

These gals (and guy) LOVE to celebrate LOVE:

steph “I LOVE Valentines Day .. it’s a perfect reminder to be romantic! I get so mad when people say it’s a Hallmark Holiday .. check your facts people! Google is an awesome thing and you’ll find history behind the day. “ -Stephanie

ken

“Valentine’s Day – A legitimate holiday!  I see it as a day to reconnect with your “significant other” and let them know how you feel about them.  We don’t do this often enough and this holiday is a good opportunity to do that. Best way to celebrate?  Time together,  Sweetest Day is the greeting card holiday!” – Ken

michelle“Very romantic! The holiday is what you make it, doesn’t have to be a hallmark holiday. It is just a day set aside to show the people you love how much you love and appreciate them. Whether it is with a card, gift or just a heartfelt kiss and an “I love you””  -Michelle

linda“We celebrate all kinds of things these days…. National Beer Day, National Chocolate Day, why not have a day to celebrate Love…..Valentine’s Day  We like to celebrate by going out to a wonderful restaurant and spending time together.” -Linda

cathy“According to my husband, Valentines’ Day is just a holiday the card companies made up to make money.  I, on the other hand, love Valentine’s Day and think it’s a sweet holiday for a couple.  I also really, really love chocolate-covered strawberries, which are a staple for Valentine’s Day.  And I really, really hope my husband reads this blog and buys me some.  Hint, hint.” -Cathy

maggie“I enjoy Valentine’s Day. I’d like to spend the night in making dinner together and watching movies with wine rather than going out!” -Maggie

amber“My hubby always worked on Valentine’s Day as a server so we always celebrated on our own another day.  I think it’s fun if you take the pressure off and do something silly! Flowers and reservations are overplayed, you got to switch it up and do something that makes the day more memorable!” -Amber

Some, take the middle ground on the holiday…

audra“I think I am in between  your two options.  I think it’s a romantic holiday because there is nothing wrong with having a reason to show your significant other you care.  On the other hand, we choose not really to celebrate.  We will do little things like cook a special dinner at home or give each other cards, but there is no reason to spend hundreds at a restaurant that is most likely understaffed and overpriced for the holidays. Or spends loads of money on flowers that will die in a week that cost you double what they will next week. ” -Audra

tricia“I think it all depends on where you are in your life.   If you are happy and in love, then yes, it’s a romantic holiday!  But if you are not with someone special, it is a lame Hallmark holiday. ” -Tricia

bryan“For me, Valentine’s day has become far too commercialized, just like Christmas, where the card companies have manipulated everyone to believe it is something it’s not.  The true reason behind Valentine’s Day has been long lost over time.  I go along with it lol         – Bryan

lisa“I’m sort of in the middle.  I think its definitely a Hallmark holiday however my hubby and I do get a gift for each other and cards etc.  For the most part though I think it’s a money making scheme.” -Lisa

amy“I’m a practical gift giver no matter what holiday it is.  Although I know Valentine’s day is supposed to be a romantic holiday my husband and son know to expect new socks or deodorant or something like that. ” -Amy

And some, prefer to celebrate love on other days…

diana“My husband and I feel that Valentine’s day is just another day. You should be showing your love and appreciation all year round to the people that you love, which is the success for any relationship no matter who that relationship is with. My children, my husband and my family know how I feel about them at all times not just one day a year” -Diana

bill“I used to think of Valentine’s day as a kid was exciting to be able to run around the neighborhood ringing doorbells leaving a cheap little card and running away without getting caught.  Then as I got older it was more about buying a gift for my girl and getting together for a date to exchange the gifts. Than as I got older again it became more about you “had” to buy not only a gift but gifts that were more expensive. Roses were priced at $75, chocolates were priced higher at that time of year. It seemed to me that it became a retailers and Hallmark’s way of getting money out of the Holiday. I think when you do love someone you do things for them that they don’t expect, even if you are married to someone that can never be surprised, and make them happy they met you and married you. I don’t think you need a “scheduled” day to show them you love them.” – Bill

christine

“It’s just another day!” -Christine

jen“I don’t need a calendar day to celebrate being in love. I’d much prefer a thoughtful random gesture than receiving gifts on the 14th. I partially think I’ve grown up this way because my birthday is just a week before hand. In elementary school, I however LOVED making my own decorative mailboxes and handing out candy and valentine’s to my classmates! We should bring those traditions back as adults, I’d be all in!” -Jen

lisaj“I think Valentine’s Day is a retailers’ ploy to sell greeting cards, chocolates and roses at inflated prices.  A spontaneous gift of a bouquet of daisies that says “I’m thinking of you” is far more romantic than a gift dictated by a designated holiday. ” -Lisa

As you can see, everyone has their own take on the holiday, but in the end, everyone likes to show love one way or another, either by participating in a lover’s holiday, or with a simple gesture at random. Have a wonderful weekend, and share the love, however you prefer doing it!

jenJen Monroe serves as the International Excess Marketing Director (duties include but not limited to: Graphic Design, Web Design, Marketing and Social Media, as well as part time blogger). Jen has a love for all things art, Cleveland sports (Go Cavs!), New Kids on the Block, pugs (specifically her smiley pup, Joss) and fat cat, Delonte. Oh, and french fries– you gotta’ love french fries. 

5 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Career

By Cathy Thurber

NY-Resolution

Happy 2015!!

It’s a brand new year, and with that we all know what comes next:  Resolutions.  Oh, there are the normal resolutions …Start a fitness routine, eat right, spend more time with family and friends, enjoy life as much as you can, etc., etc., etc.

But what about New Year resolutions for your office?  Yes, it’s true!  We can look forward to the coming year and resolve to make changes that better our organization.  Here are a few ways we can make our work day / week / year just a little bit better:

  1. Set realistic goals for yourself. Well thought-out and achievable goals can really help you move forward.  They give you direction and focus.  Look at the big picture and then break it down into smaller steps that will help you get there.  If you need help setting realistic goals, here are some steps that may help:  http://sidsavara.com/personal-productivity/setting-realistic-goals
  2. If it’s not working for you, let it go and move on. If your product, be it a new program or a commodity, is not working then stop using it.  Don’t invest a ton of energy into trying to make something work that is unworkable.  Not all suppliers or business relationships are good for your company.  Besides when one door closes, another opens up, correct?  There will be something better down the road.
  3. Get organized. Oh, the bane of my existence.  I cannot stand things being unorganized and yet they always seem to end up that way at one point or another.   Reduce the clutter, both on your desk and inside your computer.  Do you need to keep all those emails or can you save them somewhere or delete them?  Have you seen your stapler lately or is there a pile of paperwork hiding it?  If you can’t find that stapler, file those papers or trash them!  Either way, you’ll breathe easier with a more organized desktop.
  4. Remember those extra emails from #3?  Well, can you delegate some of those to another person?  We all know that certain someone who has an inbox with over 500 emails.  This is just not necessary – and not good for your work atmosphere!  It can be easy to think you have the capability of handling it all, but usually you just end up feeling stressed and frazzled.  Ask yourself these questions: Do you have enough time to handle this? Is there another person that has the expertise to accomplish this task?  Delegating is not giving up; it’s recognizing what is the best use of your time and skills while acknowledging the skills and potential of others in your organization.
  5. Learn something new. I can never state this enough, for life in general.  Learning is your most valuable tool.  Determine to learn something directly related to your business.  In insurance, we all have those continuing education classes to take – make sure it’s something that will add a new dimension to what you already know.  Or, choose to learn something completely unrelated to work!  A healthy balance between work and home life is important.  Perhaps there is something you’ve always wanted to do that will make you more fulfilled.  Take a chance and broaden your horizon!  You may even meet new people who could become customers or colleagues.

Our 7 step process in creating an insurance program

Ever wondered how we do it? Check out the infographic below… it’s as easy as 1,2,3 … (4,6,5,7!)

Our seven steps in building an insurance program from the ground up

Our seven steps in building an insurance program from the ground up

Two more years…

By Cathy Thurber

Two more years.  That’s all I have left at home with my daughter before she goes away to college.  I will then be the only female left in my household.  I am not anticipating a ton of enjoyment out of that, as the boys never seem to want to go shoe shopping.  I just don’t understand why not.

I am lucky that I have these next two years, though!  A close friend of mine just relinquished her daughter up to the care of a state university.  Said daughter is having the time of her life already.  My friend – for as much as she couldn’t wait to send her child out – is sad that she is gone.  And she worries about her daughter, of course.  If you are also one of those parents who just sent a child out to the great big world of higher education, I have some tips from Oprah’s website written by Daphne Oz:

  1. Remember that he/she is still a kid. Be prepared for them to make stupid choices occasionally.  But don’t worry, they will learn from them.
  2. They still need their parents. Call and see how they are doing, if they need anything.
  3. Let them learn for themselves. Give them the affirmation to be confident in themselves. Give them some space to let them grow.

If you would like to see the entire article (which is a good read for you college parents), here it is: http://www.oprah.com/relationships/Tips-for-Sending-Your-Kids-to-College

In any case, I wish all you parents out there some good luck as you release your children to the next phase of their lives.  It can’t be easy; I know I’m not really looking forward to it.  And good luck to all those teenagers ready to go out and conquer the world.  I hope you work hard and get everything you are striving for.

Happy Left Hander’s Day!

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By Jen Monroe

Happy Left Hander’s Day to all you lefties out there (and to those of you who just like a reason to celebrate things!) August 13th is officially National Left Hander’s Day, which was launched in 1996 in celebration of lefties and  also created to raise awareness for the difficulties left handed people face. Here are some facts we’ve found about lefties:

  1. Mothers who are over 40 at the time of a child’s birth are 128% more likely to have a left-handed baby than a woman in her 20’s.
  2. Herbert Hoover is believed to be the first left-handed president, though James Garfield could write Greek with the left hand and Latin with the right.
  3. Although approximately 90% of all humans are right-handed, cats, rats, and mice that show handedness seem to be equally split between right- and left-pawedness.
  4. Studies have suggested that left-hander’s are more talented in spatial awareness, math, and architecture. Right-hander’s tend to be more talented verbally.
  5. Left-handedness runs in families. Lefties in the British royal family include the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and Prince William.
  6. Many people who are left-handed draw figures that face to the right
  7. About 30 million people in the United States are left-handed.
  8. Less than 1% of the world’s population can be considered truly ambidextrous.
  9. The longest words that can be typed using only the left hand with conventional hand placement are sweaterdresses and tesseradecades.
  10. Research suggests that left-handers are slightly more prone to allergies and asthma than right-handers are

Some Famous Lefties:

  • Tom Cruise
  • Paul McCartney
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Gandhi
  • Helen Keller
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Robert DeNiro
  • Babe Ruth
  • Albert Einstein
  • Brad Pitt
  • Celine Dion
  • Bill Gates
  • Drew Barrymore
  • Fred Astaire
  • Mozart
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Jerry Seinfeld

3 Helpful Tips on Transferring a Call

By Cathy Thurber

One of the easiest statements to use in business seems to be, “I can’t help you…let me transfer you to the right person.” It’s also one of the hardest to hear when you’re the one being transferred. There are many times during the work day where a person calling in ends up with me and I’m not the correct individual to speak with them. It makes it worse when you know that you are already the second or third person to speak with them. Sometimes it can’t be helped…this may be the first time the individual even dialed your phone number but they have already called two other places, only to be jockeyed around there. However, if you are the first person to take the call within your company, here are a few things to do in order to help the customer:

1.    Make sure that you know exactly where you need to transfer the individual to, even if that means asking them nicely to hold for a moment for you to verify. You don’t want them to be handed off a few more times after you speak with them.

2.    Try to get the necessary information from the caller at the beginning, so they don’t have to explain their request to more than one individual. If you know right away that you are not the correct person for them to speak with, then kindly let them know that. Tell them that you will be happy to get them to the right individual.

3.   Consider giving the customer the contact information for the person you are transferring them to, just in case they are disconnected. This is also beneficial in case the issue is unresolved or the customer needs to contact that individual in the future.

No caller wants to waste time being transferred from one person to another. It’s just frustrating. But if we can do our best to make sure they get to the correct person quickly (and kindly) then we can only enhance their opinion of our business.

Grammar Police

By Cathy Thurber

In my house I am known as the Grammar Police.  While I may not always get it right, I’m usually pretty close to being accurate.  I don’t always stay true to form when I blog, but that is mostly because I write like I think….kind of a “free verse” thing which spurs my imagination.  However, 99% of the time I like things to be said and/or written correctly.  I even throw in the commas and other punctuation when texting.  It drives me nuts when people don’t text the full word or make some kind of text “shorthand.”  Truly, I feel like texting is slowly killing the beauty of our language.  Not only that, it just looks ridiculous sometimes.  And don’t get me started on misspelled words or using the incorrect word in a sentence (for example: too, to, or two).

So, when I came across Weird Al Yankovic’s new song, “Word Crimes,” I fell in love.  Literally (or would that be figuratively?)  As usual, Weird Al does a fabulous parody of a popular song (Blurred Lines, in this instance).   Have a listen to his latest hit….and you can thank the Grammar Police later.