Dear Karen: I am a licensed private investigator working for an insurance company. I see money wasted and have an idea to prevent it. How do I market my idea?
Answer: If your money-saving idea relates to handling or investigating insurance claims, you may want to contact claims managers, third-party claims administrators and insurance defense lawyers, said Richard B. Hagemeier, executive vice president of insurance firm Bolton & Co. in Pasadena.
"These are the individuals that make decisions as to where financial resources will be spent in relation to defense or investigation of any claim," he said. If your idea is related to workers' compensation, Hagemeier recommended that you contact workers'-comp-specific adjusters, lawyers and third-party administrators.
"If you've investigated cases for the insurance industry, those past relationships are probably the best opportunity to gain a friendly ear," he said. You might also contact industry groups such as the National Assn. of Professional Insurance Agents ( www.pianet.com) and the Property Casualty Insurers Assn. of America (www.pciaa.net).
On paying by commission only
Dear Karen: You recently answered a question about commission-only sales compensation. Is this a viable model for small companies?
Answer: Critics of commission-based compensation say it discourages sharing of leads and information among colleagues. But it can work if you create a sales environment where leads don't need to be shared, said Jerry Carter, chief executive of sales training firm Carter & Consultants, based in New Jersey.
Carter used the commission-only model at his former payroll services company. He said it didn't cause problems between salespeople. "The strategy works especially well when the sales target is small businesses, which are plentiful," Carter said.
It also helps to pay commissions monthly rather than all at once.
"Paying commissions over time provides an incentive for the sales representative to make sure the client is satisfied with the services," Carter said. It also helps small businesses that may have cash-flow issues.
Strengthen your firm with advisors
Dear Karen: Is there one thing I can do now to increase the odds of success for my new business?
Answer: Create an informal advisory group that will be your support system and sounding board. Such a board is especially helpful for small-business owners who tend to get isolated and preoccupied, said Paul O'Reilly, a consultant with O'Reilly & Associates in Los Angeles.
"Public and nonprofit organizations have boards of directors to provide feedback, insight, oversight and guidance to their successful development. Small businesses usually lack this kind of support and often feel unsure of whom they can ask for advice and feedback," he said.
Advisory-board members do not have to get ownership stakes in your business. Ask other entrepreneurs as well as your attorney, accountant and mentors to be on your board, O'Reilly said, and regularly solicit their advice.
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