Morning Motivation – Week of January 21, 2019

Happy Monday, friends!

You know that I like to start each week with some positive words of wisdom:

The New Year is upon you. I’m watching the sunrise on the first day of this year and drinking a plain black cup of hot coffee while Kathy is sleeping in. Meanwhile, I am thinking about the absurdity of retail stores in the modern age. It’s all because of needing a pair of slippers…

The Bummer of Empty Shelves

I told you last week that I had wandered into some big box retail stores for a few last minute stocking-stuffers. Every store I visited seemed to somehow be missing huge swaths of items on their shelves. On the 29th, I wandered into a Bed and Bath store to find (of all things) a pair of men’s slippers. But when I finally tracked down a nice woman in a grey shirt, she pointed me to the three pairs of men’s slippers that were left in the store – all were size Small. (Having wide feet, this meant no slippers for me.)

Compare this to the Amazon app on my phone, or Alexa who I can just ask to pick me out a pair of slippers. They’ll be here the very next day!

But This Isn’t a Story of Slippers or Retail Stores

This is about the marketplace. It’s about you. It’s about your website and your business. Amazon just exists as an easy analogy. Ask yourself the following questions about your business:

  • Do people even really know what you sell? Is it explicit enough?
  • Is it clear from your website how and where to buy it?
  • Are your “shelves” stocked? Can people see quickly that you have their item?
  • Do you deliver what you sell fast enough to satisfy today’s market?
  • How are you staying top of mind with your clients and referral partners?
  • Have you stayed ahead of the curve with methods and means to stay connected to your clients and your referral buyers?

Look at those six questions. Ask yourself whether your business– however big or small– passes the test. And where you find yourself lacking (because most of us including me can’t answer these all with a yes) ask yourself how you’ll fix these issues fast.

Remember, you and I are in the same boat – just trying to build a better business. If there is ever anything I can do to help you in this endeavour, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Carlos

Recap: Monthly Maintenance

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.”

– Margaret Thatcher

Taking care of your home can seem like a colossal task – but just like any big job, it is much easier to handle when broken into more manageable pieces. Consider, for example, the post on our blog from last week about a few simple monthly home maintenance tasks that you should have set on your schedule to keep your home running smoothly.

  • Check your HVAC filters and determine if they need to be replaced.
  • Clean your dish disposal in the kitchen by grinding a few vinegar ice cubes.
  • Use a combination of degreaser and hot water to soak your range hood’s filter.
  • Ensure that your fire extinguisher has adequate pressure and is accessible.
  • Clean your sink aerators and shower heads with vinegar

If you ever need help with a home maintenance task, call a Boston professional! Here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we know many qualified professionals in the area, and would be happy to provide you with a referral.

And to ensure that you will have a smooth recovery in case anything ever happens to your home, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655 to talk about your home insurance policy. Having a great home insurance policy is crucial, and to make sure that your home insurance policy is up to date, you should talk to your insurance agent yearly to update it based on your changing needs.

Tips for First-Time Business Owners in Massachusetts

Here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we love our neighborhood, and one of our favorite things about the local area is the diversity of the businesses. Instead of shopping at huge national chains, we love to make our purchases at the local ‘mom and pop’ shops that make the area unique.

As a business owner, you are no doubt always looking for ways to make your business better (and make yourself a better business owner). In service of that, we want to share with you some of the tips that we have found useful in our journey of becoming one of the businesses that ‘makes it’ and even, dare we say it, thrives!

Build a Great Team

The vast majority of small businesses start off as a one-person operation. At some point, though, you will need (or you already have) brought on another (or several extra) sets of hands. The quality of the people that you bring in to business is a critical factor in determining your business’s success or failure. You have to realize that experienced workers will cost more, but the extra quality that they will bring to their work will help your business stand apart. So, before you hire your neighbor’s college-age kid that’s home and looking for a summer job, do a cost-benefit analysis of whether they are the right person for the job.

Networking is Critical

You can have the perfect product, but you won’t sell anything unless you have help getting the word out about it. Instead of being a lone wolf when it comes to marketing your business, use the power of networking to spread the word. Think of it like this – if you can recruit 10 raving fans, and they each recruit 10 more fans, etc., the results are exponential! It’s much more effective than one-on-one marketing.

One of the best ways to network is to meet new people and give them your ‘elevator pitch’ – it may sound like business school 101, but it really is that important. You need to know how to explain who you are and what your business does succinctly. And remember that you will need several different versions depending on your industry. You may need one for potential clients and another for referral sources, for example.

Prioritize Your Customers and Clients

As a business, you want to keep old clients while also recruiting new ones into your fold. Remember, though, that when looking for a place to shop for a product or service, many potential customers will look at reviews for the businesses that they are considering shopping at. This means that in order to bring in new customers, you need to make sure that your current customer experience is excellent, and that your satisfied clients are leaving you great reviews online to promote your business.

Carefully Evaluate Opportunities

Small businesses are given a lot of opportunities. As the new owner of your small business, it is your job to evaluate potential opportunities and to decide whether they are worth it. Remember – small businesses only have a limited amount of resources (including funds) so you need to pick and choose wisely. It is inadvisable to try and take advantage of every offer that comes along, since you could easily stretch yourself too thin and end up suffering.

Learn to Adapt to Circumstances

For a new business, things can change on a dime. You need to be prepared to roll with the punches. As famed businessman Michael Scott would say, “Adapt, react, readapt, act.” When your business is still small, you have the flexibility to make things work – unlike your bigger counterparts that are plagued with regulations and red tape. Take advantage of this to figure out what works and what doesn’t, just make sure to account for the fact that you will hopefully need to scale up your processes in the future!

Take Care of Yourself

When you’re running a fledgling business, it’s easy to get caught up in doing everything you can to make your business perfect. Don’t forget to take care of yourself, though! Make time to sleep, eat right, and exercise – that will keep you in shape so that you can continue to shape and grow your business for years to come.

Take Care of Your Employees

You can’t make your employees take care of themselves, but you can give them the tools that they need to do exactly that. Ask your Boston insurance agent about adding employee coverage to your business insurance policy – it’s a great way to show your employees how important they are to you and your business.

If you’re looking for business insurance for your new Boston business, talk to the local agents at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency. There’s no better small business to use for your commercial insurance policy – we are an independent agency, so we can compare quotes from several insurance providers to find the one that’s right for you and your new business.

And if you need help with getting your new business on track, call the agency and ask to speak with Carlos Vargas about his business coaching! He is available to help you get your business running and will help you take it to the next level.

How Do I Know if My Car is Eligible for Classic Car Insurance?

There is nothing quite like seeing a class car rolling down a city street, especially when it is contrasted by a mass modern vehicles. Antiques exude a class and elegance that are seem to be lacking from most cars manufactured nowadays. This is why it is important to protect and preserve classic cars that have survived the test of time. Many have a special place in history, such as a Ford Model T. If you are fortunate enough to own a classic car, be sure to consider purchasing an insurance policy that will specifically cover your prized vehicle. Vargas & Vargas Insurance in Dorchester, MA will be able to give you more information on classic car insurance and let you know if your car meets the qualifications.

Classic Car Insurance Eligibility

In order to qualify for classic car insurance, your vehicle must meet certain requirements. It can either be classified as a ‘classic car’ or ‘antique car.’ Here are the distinguishing factors between the two categories:

  • Classic car – A vehicle that is 10 to 24 years old with historic interest, such as a muscle car or hot rod.
  • Antique car – A vehicle that is 25 years or older with historic interest.

Additionally, you must be able to prove that your vehicle will be used on a very limited basis, that it has been preserved in its original condition (or in the process of being restored), and that it will be stored in an enclosed building or storage unit.

Whether your classic car holds sentimental value for you or restoring antique vehicles is a just a hobby, it important to protect its worth. It would be a shame for an unforeseen incident to destroy a piece of history that you hold so dear. Contact Vargas & Vargas Insurance in Dorchester, MA if you are interested in learning more about classic car insurance.

Morning Motivation – Week of January 14, 2019

Happy Monday to you, friend!

I have another great quote for you this week, as well as my continuation of last week’s message!

Just a few days ago, Twas the Day Before Christmas

I went to some real live brick and mortar stores for a few stocking stuffer gifts for Kathy (we stopped exchanging gifts years ago) and found that most retailers had all but given up. Target was dirty and their shelves were filled with big open gaps of “I don’t care.” Kohl’s was the same. All kinds of places looked like they weren’t even going to try to keep up with the intent to look vibrant and ready for business.

But Amazon was ready! They wanted my business, and they were ready to show me how fast they could deliver (literally and figuratively). Lots of other places that weren’t Amazon did okay, too. They acted big and ready.

And then this other store said, “We’re out until January 3rd, so if you place any holiday orders now, they’re not arriving before mid-January.” And this was online retail. Well, okay then!

The World Changes Every Day

That may sound scary and daunting, but it’s no more scary than deciding what you want to eat from day to day. There are plenty of variables in life, it’s not too scary. You just have to commit to the mission and the goal of your business more than the straightforward practice.

If you want to win, the big plan is to serve your customer or buyer in some very vital way. Everything you put in place for your operation then must be in line with their needs.

Why did subject lines on newsletters and blog posts change? (Did you read my message last week?) It was because people are too “busy” (or so they say) to click if your link says “Best business tips ever.” You’ve got to give them even more reasons to open.

That’s what’s true in all of all this. It’s all in service of your buyers in some way, and whatever you’re doing that doesn’t serve that or that doesn’t better increase your capabilities for that is probably wasted effort.

Happy New Year (how long can I keep wishing Happy New Year?), Happy Monday and happy new selling year!

I’m here for you.

Carlos


Recap: What Does Home Insurance Cover?

“The best we can do is size up the chances, calculate the risks involved, estimate our ability to deal with them, and then make our plans with confidence.”

– Henry Ford

To protect your home, you have a home insurance policy – but do you know exactly what coverage is a part of your policy and what risks you may be more susceptible to? Every insurance policy is different, but there are a few basic coverages that you can expect.

Your home insurance will likely cover:

  • Damage done to your home or property due to perils stated in the policy.
  • The possessions of you and your family, including those not kept at your home.
  • Liability issues arising from injuries taking place at your property.

On the other hand, coverage for the following probably won’t be included:

  • Flooding caused by excessive rainfall or other natural disasters.
  • Earthquakes – some experts say that Boston could be hit by another significant one in the future!
  • High value items including fine jewelry, antiques, and collections.
  • High-risk items like trampolines or pools, or liability issues due to dog breeds deemed ‘high-risk’ by insurance providers.

The only way to find out exactly what your policy includes or doesn’t include is to talk to your Boston insurance agent at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency by calling 617-298-0655. We can comb through your policy and let you know if you have the right amount of coverage and recommend any additional protections that you may need.

Your Monthly Home Maintenance Checklist

As a homeowner, it can be a struggle to know exactly what should be on your to-do list to keep everything in your house running smoothly. There are some things that need to be done annually, quarterly, twice yearly, as needed… the list goes on.

If you have trouble keeping track of all these necessary tasks, consider using a task manager or even an adult chore chart to keep yourself organized. Many of these are available, so you only need to try a few and find what works best for you. Some people prefer paper lists, while others like online to do list organizers like todoist or any.do.

Today, we want to focus on the things that you should be checking or doing in your home every month. This list will be different for every home, but the items below are some that will be needed by most Massachusetts homeowners. You can tailor your list as needed. And remember, these tasks may seem like (and let’s face it – they are) chores, but

First, check your home’s HVAC filters. Some people will recommend you change the filters monthly, but we find that a monthly inspection will often do the trick. Look at the filter and see if you’ve used it enough to warrant installing a new one. Homes without pets and without residents with allergies may only need to change the filter every month or two.

Do you have a disposal in your kitchen sink? Every month, clean it by grinding up a few vinegar ice cubes (fill an ice tray with vinegar and let freeze – one tray of cubes will be enough for a few months’ worth of cleanings). The vinegar will freshen your disposal, and ice sharpens the blades!

In addition to cleaning your sink’s disposal, consider cleaning the filter on your range hood. Depending on how often you use the vent, these can get greasy quickly. Soak the filter in a degreaser mixed with hot water, and rinse – it’s that easy!

Do you have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen? Hopefully you never need to use it, but you should check monthly to ensure that the gauge shows that the internal pressure is in the right range, as well as that it is easily accessible in case there is an emergency and you need to grab it in a hurry.

Depending on the composition of the water in your home, your sink’s aerators and your shower heads may need to be cleaned often in order to ensure proper pressure and flow. There are plenty of products on the market that can help with those pesky mineral deposits and buildup, but first try plain white vinegar – you might find that it does the trick without the need for expensive and harmful chemicals.

About once a month, when you have the vacuum out for your normal cleaning routine, take a few extra minutes and clean a few more things around your home. This should include any dust or debris around your HVAC system, as well as the vents connected to the system. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, slide your fridge out from its usual spot (or open the bottom, depending on your model) and give the coils a dusting to keep the system running efficiently.

In addition to these monthly home maintenance tasks, you need to ensure that you are performing less frequent tasks – for example, those that need to be done seasonally. Here on vargasinsurance.com, we often post blogs recommending seasonal maintenance tasks, so stay tuned for our advice on some of the maintenance that your home needs in order to run smoothly. We post seasonal tips all year long, like Surviving Winter in Your Boston Home, Spring Cleaning Tips that Everyone Should Know, Summer Tips for Small Business Owners, and Fall Home Maintenance Tasks, just to highlight a few examples.

Do you ever feel like some of these maintenance tasks are too hard or too time consuming to complete properly? Don’t worry – there are plenty of handymen and maintenance professionals that can help you with any tasks that you need help completing. As always, the agents at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency have connections in the community and can connect you to the perfect person for the job. For our recommendation, just contact an agent and ask for a referral.

While it may be an annual home maintenance task, checking your Boston home insurance policy is a critical part of making sure that your home is protected against several types of catastrophes. When was the last time you talked to an insurance agent about whether you have the right levels of coverage? If it’s been more than a year, call 617-298-0655 and speak to a Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent about your home protection. We are always available to give insurance advice and free Massachusetts insurance quotes, so contact us today.

Morning Motivation – Week of January 7, 2019

You know that I like to start each week with some positive words of wisdom:

While at Christmas Mass, I was thinking about the story of Jesus from a business perspective. He comes along and tells people that huge chunks of what religion and government are doing are all messed up through telling stories. His perspective shakes up everything.

You don’t have to be religious to follow along. Just think about a guy showing up on the scene and saying, “I’m the son of God and you’re doing it all wrong.”

All the Rules Have Changed

The other day, I was on a coaching call with one of my clients and I pointed out that the rules for subject lines on newsletters and blog posts have changed. Instead of simply stuffing in a few keywords, the new rule is to create a subject line that will really grab the reader’s attention and encourage them to click in. What we had originally been taught was wrong!

Everyone tells you to use lots of pictures. I started doing the opposite… (maybe I’m wrong, but my email open rate increased immensely!) This is the big point: lots of things change. Lots and lots of the rules change. You CAN’T adhere to something just because you learned it once.

You Have to Learn Over and Over and Over

When I launched my coaching program, I made sure that what I was coaching still worked. Sometimes, within a very short period, the subject that I’m coaching on has changed. Other times, I’m safe, because what I coach on has worked for me for the last 15 years and for most savvy business people for eons! But some things do change and I have to learn things over and over.

Before I sign off for the week, I want to thank you for your time and attention in 2018. I hope that I continue to add value to your inbox. I’m here any time you want to hit reply – I’m never too busy to talk with you.

I appreciate you.

Carlos

Recap: Phishing Scams

“At the end of the day, the goals are simple: safety and security.”

– Jodi Rell

Do you ever worry about your electronic security? It seems like nowadays there are hackers around every digital corner, looking to take advantage of users everywhere. The key to avoiding being taken advantage of is to stay vigilant. Here are some tips from our recent blog about how you can avoid being the target of a phishing scam when you are online:

  • Have unique, secure passwords for each of your online accounts. A secure password should include a random assortment of letters, numbers, and special characters.
  • Use two-factor authentication in addition to a password whenever possible, especially on accounts for banking and other sensitive information.
  • Never click on a link or open an attachment when you don’t know who sent you an email. Check URLs to make sure that they are legitimate and not misspelled or using special characters.
  • When browsing the web, be aware if a website is secure and encrypted by checking to see if the URL starts with “https.”

If you’re looking for more than just digital protection, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency for all your Massachusetts insurance needs. We offer many types of insurance policies that will provide you and your loved ones with financial protection for your home, car, business, and much more. One quick and easy call to 617-298-0655 will get you on the road to great insurance protection.

What Your Home Insurance Does (and Doesn’t) Cover

Everyone knows that when you own a home, it needs to be insured with a great home insurance policy. But what does that mean? What types of protection does a typical Massachusetts home insurance policy cover? While each policy will be slightly different based on the home and the needs of the homeowner, there are certain things that you can safely bet that any home insurance policy will (and won’t) include.

What Is Covered

Your Property

When you purchase home insurance, the most basic type of coverage included in your policy is coverage for the property itself. This should include your walls, windows, floors, roof, and all the basic structural elements of your home. Just be aware that damage due to specific causes or events may not be covered, as noted below.

Personal Property

In addition to covering the structure of your home, most home insurance policies will also cover your personal possessions, up to a stated limit. Thankfully, you can talk to your local insurance agent to adjust this limit to fit your needs and the needs of your family. It is also worth noting that your belongings don’t necessarily need to be in your home in order to be covered – ask your agent whether your coverage includes protection for items stolen out of your car, or a child’s belongings while they are away at college, for example.

Personal Liability

The final type of protection often included in a standard home insurance policy is personal liability protection. This coverage will help to ensure that you are financially protected if you are involved in a lawsuit because, for example, a guest trips and injures themselves on your property and sues you for medial expenses and lost wages. You never know what the future will bring, so while you never expect to be involved in a lawsuit, this insurance coverage is a good safety net to have just in case.

What May Not Be Covered

Flood

Your basic home insurance policy will cover several perils, but flood damage isn’t one of them. To learn more about flood insurance, read our FAQ blog here. One of the most important things to know is that to be a flood, waters must cover at least two square acres of normally dry land and/or affect at least two properties. If you want coverage for flood damage, ask your insurance agent about getting a flood insurance policy to add to your insurance portfolio.

Earthquake

Like floods, earthquake coverage is contained in a separate insurance policy and won’t be included with your home insurance. New England regularly gets hit by smaller magnitude earthquakes, but there is always a chance that a big one will hit. The most famous earthquake to ever hit our area was the 1755 Cape Ann earthquake – at over a 6.0 on the Richter scale, it damaged hundreds of buildings and could be felt all the way from Nova Scotia to South Carolina!

Collectibles and High Value Items

Your home insurance will probably include coverage for your possessions, but you may want to offer special consideration for your high value items. As stated above, policies have limits on the amount of coverage they offer, so adding extra protection for some of your items may be recommended. This is especially true for fine jewelry, antiques, collections, etc. Talk to your Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent about any items that you fear may not be covered under a standard home insurance policy – they will be able to tell you whether you need additional insurance protection for these items as a floater on your home insurance or as a separate policy.

High Risk Items and Situations

Here is another reason that you may want some expert help in reading the small print of your home insurance policy: some high-risk situations and items may not be covered! Every insurance provider is different, but some may not cover, for example, trampolines or offer liability protection for certain breeds of dog. If you have any special needs when it comes to having a high-risk situation like these, an insurance agent can help you select a policy that will offer coverage for you. The most common of these is pool accidents – and even if your policy offers coverage for incidents pertaining to your pool, you may want to consider some extra liability insurance to offset the additional risks associated with it, especially if you will have children or young adults swimming often.

As we mentioned earlier, this blog should not serve as a definitive guide for every home insurance policy. To find out what your unique home insurance policy covers, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655. Want to find out what types of coverage we recommend for your Boston home? Call or click for a free home insurance quote from our coverage experts, and have us craft a unique policy tailored to your needs.