Insurance industry expert Esther Tanez frequently reminds her clients that life is full of unknowns and occasional pitfalls — especially when it comes to starting a small business. “A lawsuit can shut down a small business fast,” she says. “The key to maintaining a successful business is to have your business properly covered to protect your interests and assets.” The credo has served Tanez well, as her agency E.S.T.I.R., based in Newark and with an office on Nassau Street, has grown exponentially with dozens of clients across the state.

Tanez will be a panelist at the Princeton Chamber’s 2018 Independent Business Summit. at the College of New Jersey’s Education Building in Ewing on Thursday, May 24, from 7:30 to 10:45 a.m. Four speakers will highlight issues faced by independent businesses. Other panelists include, Jon McConaughy, co-owner and general manager of Double Brook Farm and Brick Farm Market & Tavern in Hopewell; Steve David, co-founder and chief software architect for TalkSoft; and Ryan Malone, director of sales operations for Likeable Local. Ayesha Hamilton, a West Windsor-based lawyer, will moderate.

Tanez is a native of the Brick City and credits her father with introducing her to an industry that would ultimately become her lifelong vocation. “When I was 16 my dad helped me get a summer job as a filing clerk at an insurance company,” she says. “I loved the insurance business and got my license at 18.” Tanez eventually became a Certified Professional Insurance Agent (CPIA) in property, casualty, life, and health over the course of a 20-year career as an insurance agent. She started her own agency in 1999.

“I started my business in the basement of my mother’s home in Newark,” she says. “I moved to a small storefront location later that year.” As a Latina, Tanez says she saw an immediate need to serve her community — with an emphasis on educating under-served and non-traditional communities about the importance of having adequate insurance coverage to protect their personal and business interests. “We are a multicultural community and the Spanish-speaking community makes the work flow,” she says. “I have seen small business owners who could barely speak English and then seen their business prosper and grow after learning about the importance of having proper and adequate insurance.”

According to the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), litigation costs small businesses in America more than $100 billion each year. Lawsuits and costs associated with legal action is the most common cause of small businesses’ demise. Additionally, the ILR reports, one in three small business owners say they have been sued or threatened with a lawsuit. In many cases small business owners would have to pass legal costs on to consumers, reduce employee perks and benefits, suspend hiring, or shut down. Tanez says professional liability insurance can be an easy and inexpensive way to cover defense costs associated with lawsuits. She adds that we live in a litigious society in which one can be sued for practically anything.

According to Tanez, purchasing professional liability insurance for a small business allows owners to focus on customer needs and services without worrying about troubles and attorney’s fees and is designed for the small business and home office market.

Cost effective options: Tanez suggests another way to minimize insurance costs is to bundle homeowner and auto insurance policies. She also addresses some common errors. “After 30 years in the insurance business, I have seen many different and common mistakes made in homeowners insurance,” she says.

For example, homeowners insurance does not cover losses due to flooding — a major concern to thousands of New Jersey residents still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. Thousands of residents suffered losses due in part to the lack of flood insurance riders on the homeowners’ policies. “As the climate keeps changing and becomes more unpredictable, it’s important to purchase flood insurance even if your home is not in a flood zone,” Tanez says. “Insurance coverage should be based on the replacement value of the item and not the purchase price.”

Finally, Tanez says with the ever changing landscape in technology, many options exist for the small business owners and others to maximize the benefits her agency has to offer. “You can work with us via phone, e-mail, fax, or face-to-face. I make house calls,” she says. “People are in a hurry today, and we want to be available to them at their convenience.”

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