Jack of all trades, master of many
Facilities management is a complex business. Risky, too – it's not just your client's buildings that need regular maintenance and management. Your business needs it too.
Professional indemnity insurance offers a trade-off that's simple and appealing: pay your premiums on time and your policy covers your defence costs and any compensation or damages you owe if a dissatisfied client sues you for negligence.
The more you pay, the more you're protected - and the less you have to lose.
So far so good, you'd think. But covering your back with insurance isn't the be all and end all. Your next step should be to take a close, warts-and-all look at how you run your business.
Best practice makes perfect
Today's mistakes can be forgiven tomorrow but a reputation for regularly riding roughshod over your clients is something you might never lose.
And while you can't predict the future, you can prepare for the worst. With that in mind, it's time to ask yourself some pertinent questions:
- Do I have a signed, written contract with my client? If the answer is "no", schedule a sit down with your client, pronto. Your contract needs to define what you do, how you do it and for what period of time, as well as your budget and the manner in which you'll settle any disputes.
- Am I delivering on all levels? The bigger and more complicated your operations, the harder this is to gauge. Identify your key performance indicators early on and run them past your client - your vision of success might differ from theirs. Monitor them regularly so you can see what works.
- Am I keeping on track with my budget? Fancy facilities management software can help here, by filing away invoices, keeping track of receipts etc. Plan your maintenance schedule well ahead of time (with leeway for emergency repairs) and ask your client to sign-off any major spends.
- Am I communicating enough with my client? Talking regularly will help you to troubleshoot problems and understand each others' way of thinking. It sounds like a cliché, but different businesses have different needs and what works for one doesn't always work for another.
- Are my subcontractors up to scratch? Check out their qualifications and references and ask to see a professional indemnity insurance certificate. If they don't have one, ask them to sign a written agreement that states they'll cover your losses if you're sued for their mistake.
- Is my client's data protected? Professional indemnity insurance covers the loss of your client's electronic or hard documents but it doesn't protect their data from viruses and hackers. For that, look into cyber insurance.
- Is my equipment protected? Damaging or losing your client's equipment leaves the door wide open for negligence claims so make sure it's kept in good nick and safely locked away at night. If you're using your own portable equipment, you might want to insure that too.
- Am I toeing the line on health and safety? Different sites will have different regulations so make sure you're up to scratch on what they are. Where possible, carry out noisy maintenance and building work outside of office hours so you don't interrupt your client's business.
- Do I need cover for past mistakes? Professional indemnity insurance normally only covers you throughout the period specified on your policy documents. If you're worried about past contracts, speak to your insurance broker about adding retroactive cover as well.
- Are my employees looked after? Legally, if you employ one or more people you need employers' liability insurance. Skimp on it and you could be fined up to £2,500 for each day you go without. Fail to display a certificate and you could be fined £1,000.
Strategic cover for strategic thinkers
Lastly, don't forget to look after number one. Our facilities managers' insurance packages are a good place to start as they include professional indemnity, public liability and portable equipment insurance (so that's three less things to worry about...).
If you're boss of your own company, you'll need directors' and officers' insurance to fight potential allegations of running your business without 'due care' – a broad term with many possible areas of non-compliance. Given the fact that you're personally liable and it's you (and not your company) that pays if you get sued, it's a must-have these days.
Got all that? Good. Now that you've struck 'fight that negligence claim' off your to-do list, you can get on with what you do best - running your business.cyber liability insurancedirectors' and officers' insurancefacilities managersmanaging risknegligenceoffice insuranceportable equipment insuranceretroactive coverrules and regulationsrunning a businesssubcontractors