Risk managing a dream

Risk managing a dream

Risk managing a dream

Entrepreneurs won’t likely have in-house lawyers reviewing contracts with suppliers, lease agreements or insurance policies, for example. They may not even have an alarm system or bars in the window to prevent their laptops from getting stolen (much less have a cyber-policy in place if it does happen). They may simply have one thing on their minds, and it isn’t insurance.

“The big problem with an entrepreneur is trying to get them to focus,” said Andrew Janzen of Marden Insurance, Canada. “Even to get them to think about risk management is a challenge, because they are thinking about selling their product.” 

And so, the broker’s role with start-ups often involves bringing entrepreneurs back to the here-and-now. This means asking the tough questions, such as, ‘What are you doing today?’ and ‘What do you plan to do over the next 12-month policy cycle?’

“When you are talking to an entrepreneur, they have a grandiose idea, but when you send something to an underwriter, the grandiose idea is not what you want,” said Janzen.

“[The entrepreneur’s] long-term goals are important and we need to understand them; as an insurance broker, I need to be able to sit down and really understand the business, so that I can talk to the underwriter.

“But knowing the grand vision is more of a problem because if I tell the underwriter the grand vision, it will be priced beyond the actual exposure over the next policy term.”

After bringing the enterprise back to reality, the operation may look pretty bare-bones. Most entrepreneurs will start their companies with only a shoestring budget. And in the early going, processes and procedures may be viewed as an afterthought.

Brokers can assist by going over insurance policies with clients. Speaking broadly, the contracts will spell out product liability, contractual liability, the product buyers and future markets.

It’s important to make sure the entrepreneur understands the commitments spelled out in the contracts. “Even in the insurance part of it, there might be a hold harmless agreement or a waiver of subrogation,” said Janzen. “Do entrepreneurs know what that means? Have they actually taken the time to look at it? Many times, the answer to both of those questions is ‘No.’”

In the end, providing risk management guidance to an entrepreneur is much like selling insurance to a teen driver, said Janzen. “It’s a hard sell, because typically for an entrepreneur, until they’ve suffered a loss, or have seen someone who they know has suffered a loss, they’re invincible – like a teenage boy driving a car, ‘Nothing is going to happen to me, I’m fine.’ With an entrepreneur, it’s the same mentality as a young driver.” 


  • DC 4/06/2013 1:14:37 PM
    I work with and advise a good number of entrepreneurs/start-ups on Risk, Insurance and related matters.

    Entrepreneurs often have a high risk tolerance by default, if they are comfortable with high risk than it is our job (as brokers) to support the transfer of uncomfortable risk to insurers NOT to convince them to buy insurance on the face value of the product.

    I have 2 approaches with entrepreneurs:

    1) Get them to understand their risk appetite. Notwithstanding their inherent high risk tolerance, that is often a personality trait rather than their preferred commercial position. Once they understand the risks they face (mostly; products, cyber and professional liabilities) we can discuss example losses to then identify likelihood & impact of such loss and move the discussion to insurance products and premium pricing.

    2) I would discuss the entrepreneurs goals/objectives for their business/idea and advise what insurances can support them at the early stage and be expanded (endorsed) as the business needs/risk profile develops.

    Both approaches are specific and have a reasonably measurable outcome that insurance placement should be achieving (transfer of risk & support of growth), this makes sense to entrepreneurs and is valuable.

    If we, insurance professionals, cannot assist/help entrepreneurs with their plans to establish & grow than we will not get much traction with them or be seen to offer value but if we understand their often inherent high risk tolerance and how insurance can be of meaningful added value to them at the idea/start-up phase than we can be just as important as their bankers & lawyers!
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