Let’s Talk: Commercial Insurance

On this episode of the B2U Podcast, Vanessa sat down with Richard Latorre of Latorre Insurance and discussed the importance of commercial insurance for small business owners. From workers compensation to general liability, learn why business insurance is essential for protecting your assets and your employees.

Vanessa: In this episode of the B2U Podcast, we sat down with Richard Latorre, the president of Latorre Insurance, to break down commercial insurance and why this policy is critical for small business owners to protect their companies, their employees, and their future. Today’s show is brought to you by cbrbiz.com, a site connecting you with the resources you need to start and run a business in the Charlotte region. 

Hi, listeners, I am your host, Vanessa Vaughn Mathews, the founder and chief resilience officer of Asfalis Advisors, and this is the B2U Podcast, a podcast bringing business resources directly to you. From starting and growing a business to navigating government contracts, we’re talking with small business experts to get exclusive advice on how to start and run a successful company. 

Today, I am happy to have with me the President of Latorre Insurance, Richard Latorre, an accomplished insurance provider here to discuss why you need commercial insurance and what types of business insurance you’ll need. Without further ado, let’s jump right in. Richard, thanks so much for joining us.

Richard: It’s my pleasure, Vanessa, and congratulations on the “Mathews.” Congratulations. 

Vanessa: All right, Richard, before we begin, why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?

Richard: Well, I’m the president of Latorre Insurance. It is a group of about 20 experts and insurance agents that have been in the market. We’ve been in the market for the last 15 years, providing insurance solutions and coverages to the North Carolina and South Carolina market from personal lines insurance, which is auto, home, you know, insurance to commercial lines, to commercial insurance. And we do a lot of business insurance, workers’ comp, general liability, commercial auto, bonds, etc., as well as benefits like group health insurance, dental insurance, and so on and so forth that many employees as well as individuals need. So we are a full-service full service agency, independent agency, so we’re not a captive operation. We work with many different insurance carriers so that we can provide those different solutions and tailored solutions to the customers. Yeah. 

Vanessa: So every small business owner, in my opinion, has a story. What sparked the idea for Latorre Insurance?

Richard: Well, I’m from Miami, Florida. And I was born in South America and in Colombia, but I grew up in Miami. And after graduate school, I was working for Sony traveling all over the place. But the corporate world is a little bit, you know, a little bit frustrating because if you wanna do something, you got to get 50 signatures from 50 different people. So I thought that maybe, you know, creating a small business and becoming an entrepreneur was the way to go. And I knew that I had the skill sets for that. I moved to Charlotte. My family had moved here. I had, you know, brothers and sisters that had moved here. And I decided to move to Charlotte, and I thought that insurance would be, you know, an avenue to pursue because I have a background in finance.

And I noticed that when I arrived here because I have Spanish language skills, I noticed that the Hispanic market here was underserved in terms of, you know, professional, real good quality professional insurance advice and services. And so I began using my Spanish language skills to begin to service that market. But quickly, obviously, I began to branch out just to serve the general market as a whole. But that’s basically how the idea began, because I saw there was a need in the market where there was an underserved portion of the population that didn’t really have great access to that type of, you know, good quality insurance services, consultation advice, etc., and so I decided to jump in. Now, of course, there are a lot more people doing that and catering to the market in general as well as specific segments of the market. But, you know, we’ve been doing this for 15 years quite successfully. 

Vanessa: Like a real entrepreneur, product-market fit.

Richard: Some niche marketing at the beginning to help you, you know, to differentiate yourself a little bit. 

Vanessa: Awesome. So I really wanna get into a lot of questions, because you have said a lot already, and I think our listeners will love this next question. So tell us about commercial insurance and why business owners need this type of coverage. 

Richard: If you’re an entrepreneur and you invest money, whether it’s, you know, $1,000 or $1 million dollars, you have a large amount of capital, you know, relatively speaking, that you need to protect. You have ongoing operations. You have employees. You have your livelihood. Maybe you’ve mortgaged certain things. Insurance and having accidents or having risks that take place that are your fault or that are the faults of your employees or if your employees get hurt on the job, that all comes back to the owner.

And without proper insurance, your investment and your livelihood, your business itself really could be wiped out through lawsuits, because obviously, as you well know, as we all know, we live in a very litigious society, you know, and anybody can sue anybody for anything. And I think without proper insurance of different types because insurance is very broad, then, you know, the business owner is exposed when things happen, and things always happen at some point or the other. Eventually, they happen. And so insurance is there to protect you, to make you whole and to allow your business to be able to continue when things go wrong. It’s just very…it’s just critical. And in many cases, you can’t do business with another entity unless you have proper insurance, you know, because everybody’s looking to cover themselves. And so that’s clear. So I think one of the prerequisites to starting a business is to have proper insurance in place for your own protection, but also for the protection of the people that you’re gonna be serving as customers. 

Vanessa: Awesome. So you spoke to the many different types of coverages. So I’m thinking about workers’ compensation, general liability, EPLI, business interruption, commercial, auto, bonds, admitted versus non-admitted carriers. And to your point, it’s a lot. Can you simplify that for a small business owner? Like, you know, what are the top one to three things that we should be thinking about as we think about all of the different types of coverages? 

Richard: Commercial Insurance is a broad topic, and there’s no such thing as a specific, like a commercial insurance policy. It’s a broad thing. Yes, there is, but it’s made up of different types of policies, like workers’ comp, like general liability, like EPLI, like commercial auto and different things, business interruption. Workers’ compensation in North Carolina, every state is a little bit different, because each state is regulated by its own Department of Insurance. So in North Carolina, if you have more than three employees, then, or three employees and more, you need to have workers’ compensation insurance, because it protects workers, employees if they’re hurt on the job. So if someone’s doing something for someone, and they get hurt on the job, and they’re disabled, or they can’t work, or they need medical attention, the workers’ compensation policy pays for that. If the person can’t work for a certain period of time, it’ll pay a portion of their income while they recover and come back to work.

And it’s mandatory to have that if you have three or more employees. If you as an owner of…for example, if one of your employees gets hurt on the job and they don’t have workers’ compensation insurance, they can sue you for the medical insurance, for the medical costs. If they can’t work, they can sue you for, you know, having to continue to pay them. The owner is liable. And so that’s why it’s a law here in North Carolina that if you have three or more employees with a couple of different exceptions in terms of, you know, industry, then you have to have that coverage in place to protect the workers. You know, and those, of course, I mean, without going into so much detail, about 100 and whatever so years ago, workers’ compensation insurance didn’t exist. People would get hurt on the job all the time. People would fall from buildings. They would be disabled for life. And employers had no responsibility for that. You know, lives were ruined. So workers’ compensation laws were passed to basically protect the worker. And, of course, in the modern world, that is very much the case.

The general liability is a different coverage. Obviously, it covers…again, using you as an example, if your employees are handling a project somewhere, and they break stuff, or they damage somebody’s computer system, or they make a mistake and something happens, or in the case of a developer or a general contractor, if they destroy or damage a building or if a crane falls on top of a roof, the general liability policy pays for those accidents and those problems that your employees, for example, or that you yourself operating at someone else’s place of business cause.

So it’s a liability policy. In other words, it covers third-party liability. And so that’s why it’s important, for example, and this is very common anywhere. If you hire someone to go to your house to renovate your home or to change a roof, you need to make sure that that contractor is insured, that they have workers’ comp and general liability insurance, at least that, because if they don’t have those things, and the construction worker falls from your roof, and they break their back right there in your backyard, you know, you could be liable for that injury as well as the owner of the operation. If they damage your windows or if they break a very nice, expensive vase that you might have in your house or whatever it is, then the general liability policy pays for that. You can claim against the general liability policy to protect your specific property. I would not hire a person who comes to work at your house, at my house without proper insurance, because it’s for your protection as well as for their protection. 

Vanessa: So one of the things that I think about as a business owner, and you may not be at the place where you have employees, but if you have subcontractors, so ensuring that those subcontractors, you know, give you a certificate of insurance, because, to your point, for those of us who may have a service-based company where we’re not delivering a product but it’s more of we’re providing a recommendation and advising you, if we tell you to do something and then something goes wrong because you took our advice, kind of planning for that and then extending that coverage to your subcontractors if you don’t have an employee. So I’m sure that’s a part of the conversations you guys have with customers, too. 

Richard: Yes, it is, Vanessa, and with subcontractors, I think a couple of… You know, there are so many different insurance companies. Some are excellent, some are, you know, not that…you know, are maybe more average. But it depends on the guidelines and on the procedures and the appetite guides that those carriers have and how they handle, for example, subcontractors. Some insurance companies don’t wanna have more than, let’s say 25% of your workforce be independent contractors. They want really mostly employees. Of course, employees are the safest entity for an insurance carrier, because obviously, you know, they are employees, they fall more under the guidelines of the employer. They’re gonna follow certain… They have to be at work at a certain time, etc. Independent contractors pretty much, you know, come and go as they please. So insurance carriers…everything insurance is actuary risk, you know, and so they see those as more of a higher risk, because they’re not really reporting to you, they’re not W-2 employees, etc. 

But in the case that an insurance carrier doesn’t wanna cover or doesn’t want workers’ compensation for a specific policy, for example, to cover a certain number of contractors, as the owner and all the people that are listening that are business owners, they themselves should ask the contractor to provide insurance. The subcontractor themselves should have their own insurance and provide it to the owner of the business that is hiring those subcontractors to make sure that any claim doesn’t follow the owner because that’s what always happens with lawsuits.

You know, insurance carriers are gonna go follow and lawyers are gonna go follow where the money is. They’re gonna follow this person’s insurance carrier. If that person…if that doesn’t exist, then they’re gonna go to your insurance carrier and so on and so forth. And, of course, in the end, insurance companies themselves, you know, negotiate with each other and subrogate, you know, whoever’s responsible for what. Those are the intricacies of that stuff. But with subcontractors, you have to make sure, and we deal with subs all the time in terms of our customer. A lot of our customers have a lot of subcontractors. 

They have to make sure that those subcontractors are insured and they have their own policies and that those policies are enforced. And if they get canceled, then they should be notified that those policies have been canceled, because they can’t be working on a specific job without coverage because of all the liability that is there. So that’s how that works with subcontractors, Vanessa.

Vanessa: Absolutely. So in an area that is heavily populated with different audiences, Hispanic communities being one of those, can you talk about your expertise in the Hispanic insurance market? 

Richard: Well, we have customers from the entire region, you know, White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Russian, you know, Brazilians, all kinds of customers. In terms of your question, the Hispanic market, we’re very strong in that market, because how I initially started and because of my background. And as we have worked to really… And we became very strong in construction insurance and restaurant insurance where there are a lot of Hispanics that work in those fields and business owners that are doing a great job. And so we became very heavily involved, for example, with organizations such as the HBA, the Home Builders Association. I helped to start and develop the Hispanic Contractors Association of the Carolinas. That is a trade organization that really, it does a great job.

And so because of that, in the context there and the fact that I then began to hire a staff that is also bilingual and can speak English and Spanish, or Portuguese in some cases, we began to develop really, some deep roots into that market. And so the more people that we serviced in that demographic, you know, the more that came in terms of referrals and so on and so forth. Of course, we have to pride ourselves and try to do the best job that we can in terms of service. I think that led to referrals, and we began to grow in that area.

But, obviously, by being involved, and by giving back to the community, and by servicing the client properly, you know, we began to develop a following. But it doesn’t stop there. We have all kinds of different customers. Every customer, we treat the same. It has to be with great dedication and great service. You know, we’re a diverse operation where we have all kinds of customers, both in personal lines insurance, meaning auto, home, boat, and stuff like that, and commercial lines and all kinds of different customers. Like I said, not just Hispanics, but certainly, we’re very strong in that market. 

Vanessa: So from workers’ compensation to contractors insurance, Latorre has offered and continues to provide a wealth of commercial insurance options. I’m also thinking about errors and omissions, cybersecurity, professional liability. What is the easiest way for a business owner to identify what type of insurance they need?

Richard: Well, speak with an expert and an expert that knows the industry and knows, for example, the type of work that they’re gonna do. And we were talking about construction, but it could be anything else. It could be manufacturing, it could be restaurants, it could be whatever. And, for example, there are industries where you need specific types of coverages and insurance agents. That’s an industry. The insurance industry is an industry as well, obviously. You mentioned errors and omissions. I’m sure that also is very critical in your line of work. Errors and omissions insurance covers errors that you make or that your employees make that are gonna potentially hurt your clients. If your client is hurt because of an error that you made, they’re gonna sue you. Errors and omissions insurance is there to protect you. And that is a very huge field because we are in a very litigious society. If you make a mistake, somebody’s gonna go after you. If somebody has been injured because of your fault, whether it’s intentional or non-intentional, then the errors and omissions policy is there to protect you.

Vanessa: So I read on your website that you provide tailored insurance solutions that are accessible and affordable, which we can spend a whole day about affordability, especially in the city of Charlotte. And for me, that’s an interesting concept, and it really speaks directly back to what you were communicating in terms of you have to get to know the business owner that you’re serving. What’s their business? What’s their model? What are their challenges? And then you can really think through leveraging your expertise and your team on how you can service those individuals and better advise them. Along that same topic, can you elaborate on this and the importance of working directly with an insurance broker?

Richard: Well, I like that question. I think, you know, we…our firm is an independent insurance agency, you know, and what that means is that we work directly with several, many top insurance carriers, insurance companies so that we can tailor and look and find out what is best, what type of insurance is best for that particular client. So an independent insurance agent is different than a captive agent. There are different distribution channels for insurance in the market. Two of those channels, the main two channels are the captive agent and the independent insurance agent. The captive agent works for one company, and they offer the product to the customer of that company, no other company, just that company. 

So think of, well, without mentioning names, a specific company that basically handles that…a specific agent that handles that company. An independent agent, like us, works with multiple companies, Erie, Travelers, Hartford, you know, different companies, and National General, Progressive, Blue Cross Blue Shield. So because each person, each client, each risk is different, different insurance companies are gonna have different rates and different ways to underwrite that risk. So if we can shop around, if we can compare, if we can give you three proposals for your business, for example, or your home or your car versus just one, one of those insurance carriers or the coverages or the pricing might be better for you. 

I think in my personal opinion since I’m…and of course, I’m the owner of this business, I think that’s best for the customer to work with an independent insurance agent/broker, as you called it. Because we can offer you five or six or seven or eight different types of solutions or proposals, coverages, prices and then help you choose which one is best for you as opposed to me going to you and say, “This is my one insurance carrier. This is the product that I have.” And that’s also fine. But I think that if you have more options, especially if you want to find perhaps better pricing, then that’s the way to go in my opinion. And that’s what we do. And I think those are the main differences there. You know, and, of course, you know, we focus on our customer. We are not employees of the insurance carrier. Because, for example, if you buy a policy from some specific companies, you call, you’re talking to an employee of that company, which is fine, but we’re not employees of the insurance companies. We are working for our customer to find what’s really best for you in terms of your coverage, your specific needs, pricing, etc. And in my opinion, that is by far the best solution for a client. If I were an insurance customer, if I wasn’t in this industry, I would want an insurance agent that would give me different options or I can choose what policy is best for me. 

And then those agents can shop around. If your price goes up, let’s say at the end of your term, then I can say, “Well, listen, your price went up with Erie. Let me quote you with Hartford. Let me quote you with Travelers. Let me quote you with National General, with Progressive to see what the rate is.” We do that all the time. If you are working with a captive agent and the price goes up, the captive agent says, “Okay, the price went up. I can’t do anything about it. Maybe we can lower your coverages. Maybe we can maybe give you a higher deductible to see if the price goes down. But I can’t offer you a different carrier or three or four different carriers.” That’s one of the main differences. And so it allows us to be more of a consultant because we have to learn and we have to know what these different coverages and products that these different carriers offer so we can give them to you.

Vanessa: So this is extremely insightful, because I think, as a business owner, you really have to be armed with knowledge before you go sit and talk to people and then make a decision. And I think it’s… I always tell people you don’t know you have a bad lawyer until you have a good one. 

Richard: That’s true. That’s true. I like that.

Vanessa: One that explains the process, helps you to understand, you know, what a nondisclosure agreement is, why you use it, some of those different, you know, clauses. And so I think that you and the knowledge that you’re providing… I’m over here learning a lot.

So you’ve mentioned that you are servicing North Carolina and South Carolina. And I think about Charlotte has really taken a lot of steps to become more of a regional area. Can you talk more specifically to just give our listeners who just may not be familiar with you and your organization, what is your specific footprint across the North Carolina, South Carolina region?

Richard: Well, our main focus really is North Carolina. We have offices in Greensboro and Charlotte. We’re gonna open up an office in the near future in Raleigh. And we wanna be able to have, you know, service the full North Carolina market pretty completely. We have some business in South Carolina. We have customers in South Carolina, but we don’t have a specific office there, but, of course, we are licensed insurance agents in South Carolina, and we do business there as well. But our major footprint is North Carolina, specifically Charlotte, Greensboro, of course, and in the future, in the near future, Raleigh. Those are the biggest areas, and that’s where you’re gonna find our offices. 

But a lot of this, as you know, insurance is done, is transacted online through phone consultations, through the internet by people visiting our website. So it doesn’t matter if you live, you know, in Kernersville or some other place that’s far away from either Charlotte or Raleigh or wherever. Call us, because we can help our customers no matter where you are in terms of North Carolina or South Carolina. Of course, coverages are different in North Carolina, South Carolina, different carriers. Some carriers don’t operate in North Carolina. Some carriers don’t operate in South Carolina. So it depends on your need. We will tailor something that’s specific for your industry and where you are located.

Vanessa: Is there anything else that you’d like to add before we wrap up?

Richard: Thank you, Vanessa. You asked some really good questions earlier, the concept of non-admitted carriers versus admitted carriers. You mentioned that. That’s very important. The person who’s buying insurance, a business owner buying insurance wants to make sure that the insurance agent explains to them if the carrier that they are being insured with is non-admitted in North Carolina or admitted in North Carolina. An admitted carrier is subject to the regulations, the full regulations of the North Carolina Department of Insurance, similarly in South Carolina, but the North Carolina Department of Insurance. If that carrier goes bankrupt, and let’s say your business has a loss, but your carrier is in financial trouble, it goes bankrupt, and if they’re non-admitted, then you may not be able to get your claim satisfied.

The state may not be able to interfere or get involved in helping you recover monies from that, you know, from that bankrupt carrier, because it’s not admitted. It’s not subject to the full financial regulations of the state of North Carolina. An admitted carrier is, so you have protection in case that carrier goes through insolvency that you’re gonna have a better chance of your claim being paid. So work with admitted carriers. Unless there’s no other choice, unless you have a specific high risk, then you have to, of course, work with surplus and excess lines carriers that are handling very risky situations that most insurance carriers don’t wanna handle. But for the most part, ask your insurance agent to make sure that your carrier is, you know, financially strong and is admitted in North Carolina. That’s important to you. I think that’s probably a very key point that I wanna add. I think that’s important for people to know. Probably, and I’m sure that it’s something that doesn’t get explained very often when a person is buying insurance for sure. Sure. 

Vanessa: I think you are probably 99.9% correct on that. 

Richard: So, well, find us online, latorreinsurance.com. We’re there. We have a site that’s very well done in English and Spanish as well. Find us on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter. Call our toll-free number, our main office, and you can just access us. (844) 566-8181, that’s our number. You can find me directly, and you can send me an email, and I’ll be happy to help you. If I can’t help you specifically, one of our insurance agents, experts will get in touch with you and answer your specific questions. We have a commercial lines team, a personal lines team, a life and health insurance team. So one of those folks will be able to help you and answer your questions.

Every policy has a lot of exclusions, and there’s no such thing as a policy covering everything. So make sure so that you are protected. But other than that, just, you know, work with people that are gonna care about your business, that learn your business, and that take the time to explain to you the intricacies of these things, because they’re important. It’s a difference between you maybe losing your investment as a business owner or being able to continue, you know, with your operations. 

Vanessa: Well, listeners, there you have it. For exclusive interviews with small business professionals like Richard, make sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, iTunes or find them at cbrbiz.com, and if you liked today’s show, please rate and review us. If you have any questions or topic suggestions, send in your requests @CBRbiz on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I am your host, Vanessa Vaughn Mathews, and thanks for listening to CBR B2U Podcast.

Until next time, we mean business.

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