Business consulting can be a challenge: how to manage risk
Starting your own business is filled with risk (and reward), and consultants often take on the risk of their clients, depending on how they are advising, making it particularly tricky. There are a variety of methods business consultants can follow to minimize risk and manage it.
Ted Devine, CEO of small business insurance provider, insureon, notes that consultants, “whether they offer advice on management, marketing, human resources, or other areas of business – often operate as sole proprietors or independent contractors. But even if you don’t have a traditional team of employees, you still face a number of risk exposures specific to the work you do.”
Devine offers the following five methods in his own words, urging consultants to take them into account to ensure “unnecessary (and unexpected) losses” can be avoided:
1. Contracts, contracts, contracts
Contracts are key. Regardless of specialty, business consultants often have to immerse themselves in a client’s operations in order to provide sound guidance in their area of expertise. But this investment in a business’ inner workings can lead to blurred boundaries of responsibility. To prevent the scope of a project from oozing beyond the borders of the work you were first hired to do, be sure to use contracts with every client. In addition to establishing clear parameters for your work, contracts help keep client expectations reasonable and can provide invaluable evidence in the off chance that you’re hit with a lawsuit alleging you didn’t fulfill your professional duties.
2. Don’t get fined for your office location
Your home office might be illegal. Many counties have ordinances restricting or prohibiting commercial activity in residential areas. To prevent fines or penalties, make sure you have appropriate permits and adhere to any local rules for as long as you operate out of your house.
3. Insurance may not cover you
…plus, [a home office] has all the usual business liabilities. Making sure your home office is legal is just the start of managing your liabilities. Keep in mind that most home offices are not covered by Homeowner’s Insurance policies. In fact, Homeowner’s policies often include language that specifically excludes home offices and business equipment. Just as importantly, if you receive clients at your home office, you could be held liable for injuries or damage to their property that occurs on your premises.
The good news? There’s a kind of bundled insurance called a Business Owner’s Policy (BOP) that includes Property and General Liability Insurance. It protects you from lawsuits associated with injury to your clients and from the cost of repairing or replacing damaged business equipment.
4. Staying out of hot water
You can be held liable for your advice. Even though you’re not selling physical products, consulting still exposes a business owner to liability. Imagine you’re an HR consultant and you’re charged with filling a key top-level role for a technology firm. If you find an applicant who’s eventually hired and it turns out that person faked his credentials and costs the firm money and time, you could face a lawsuit for failing to properly vet the candidate.
5. Classifying employees
Classifying your employees right can save you thousands. If you’re like a lot of business consultants, you work primarily on your own, with maybe a few contractors to help manage your books or your technology. But what happens when you grow and decide to bring on a remote, part-time assistant? Depending on where you live, state law may require you to carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance – or face serious fines. Whether you’re currently operating on your own or with a team of helpers, take the time to review your state’s Workers’ Comp laws to ensure that you don’t have to spend your hard-earned revenue on compliance penalties.