Saturday, March 17, 2007

Insurance - Free Market - Conglomerates

Often while I'm around and about in the Bay, people mention in conversation how much their insurance has gone up. The general consensus is that we need to do something. I don't think the solution is to move somewhere else, because I'm not so sure that it's not just a coastal problem but a problem across the country. Even when we were in Louisville, I was hearing things like "if you call your homeowners insurance carrier too much to ask about claims or file a claim, your insurance will go up..." Insurance is now tied to credit scores, assuming (perhaps rightly so) that if you have credit problems, you are more likely to file a claim. So I started thinking about that. In a sense my company is like an insurance company. People pay us to take care of their web servers, email and web programs. They pay us monthly, and they are paying so that when they have a problem (ie. claim) they can have it handled. Even this morning at 9 AM on a Saturday, I helped a client with his email, by changing a password for him. But the point is, you pay a monthly fee (or yearly fee) and we handle it. Some clients don't ever have problems, some do have more problems, and thats usually the ones with more users to handle. But what if, someone called twice, and I said, "ok your bill is going to double!!! You are paying for my service, but if you actually use it -- I'm going to charge you more! " I'd be in business about 2 weeks before I'd have run off good customers and hurt my bottom line, and people would take their business somewhere else. There are literally probably hundreds of thousands of companies that do what I do across the world. So what if I wanted to leave my insurance company here, and go some where else, I've only got a couple of choices, and even fewer that actually do homeowners insurance. Lack of competition is a problem from the consumer (look at gas prices for instance). Fewer players, means higher prices. Markets where there are many people providing that same service, seems to drive prices down. They call that a free market.

So does it bother me that a huge percentage of "search" goes through one company? Sure it does. What about Cingular, and BellSouth, which is becoming the new AT&T? Does anyone think they'll get better service now? Better prices? I doubt it, I know the service side of it was horrible every time I've ever had to deal with Cingular and BellSouth. It just means we have fewer choices in yet another market. Which means, we have less cheap supply, and demand that is constant which will drive up prices. It's time to do something, and give people a chance to get in to some of these markets and compete -- for instance that Oil & Gas market, with record profits last year of BILLIONS, don't you think that some folks would be getting in to that market. If people are doing great at real estate, you might see that opportunity, and get in on it, and start brokering some deals, or buying land and you can be a player in that market. But oil, thats a different story. I'm not pretending to know all about the oil markets, but I know you don't hear about new people getting in to those markets, and new oil companies. You simply hear about them buying each other, and getting bigger, and prices getting higher, and profits being record breaking.

I'm a firm believer in de-regulating as many things as possible, and keeping the Feds out of as much of our business as we can. It seems like the FEDS can only screw up things when they get involved. Look at immigration and other things that good ol' uncle Sam is supposed to be watching. Our insurance companies need to have an opportunity for more competition, so that prices can come down. Otherwise, only the people who can self insure will build back this region, and prices will fall on everything... I'm sure the market will correct and compensate soon, home prices will surely come down as the supply of them goes up, and they won't have to be insured for as much if the price per sq foot goes down, which will help part of the problem.

I was going to rant about my health insurance going up by a third too, or I can keep my premium the same, but raise my deductible another 1200. I think I'm paying around $1200 a month in insurance right now. Maybe more than that counting my insurance for my company.
If I could simply self insure, and have no major problems, in 4 or 5 years, I could really be doing pretty well on my self-insurance account.
Oh well, not trying to be glum about the subject, but with everything going up higher and higher, it seems like there has to be a better way to offset this inflation.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Week in review

It's the first day in a new week, a week in which the first couple of days will be extra fun because of the time change. I love the long summer days, when it's light until 8:30 at night, and if we have to go through the silly clock setting routine twice a year, I guess its ok. We just got back from Emily's wedding. We are all exhausted, everyone except Kate of course, who is fired up and ready. She's been playing with "bobo" Aka the dog, whom she apparently really missed. They've been playing on the floor, sharing carrots and cheerios. She's on antibiotics right now, so we let her eat off the floor even more than usual. Ok, I'm kidding about the floor, but she seems to be in very high spirits today, and was hamming it up with the family this morning at the hotel. She got a couple of her aunt's to hold her that hadn't seen her much, and we took a gazillion pictures.
Speaking of pictures.... I just added about 600 pictures to my computer. All from Emily's wedding. Since she didn't have a traditional photographer, she had several cousins who are very good, and my mother, who is very good take pictures. I ended up being the loading zone, and dumping all the photo's on my laptop. So now I guess I need to get them all put together for E & R.... Plus I have the 250 or 300 we took of kate in the past couple of days, that I need to pare down to 20 pictures.

Last week was a good week, thanks for the comments and the shout outs from the blog-0-sphere. We'll have more to say and I'll find more pictures to post soon.

Monday, March 05, 2007

May I always walk beside her

Kate and I walked along the beach in Gulf Shores, AL. Cam took this photo. I hope I can always walk beside her. She doesn't hold my hand yet, but one day she will, and when she's ready to reach up, I'll be there, reaching down.
Posted by Picasa

Since there are a couple readers out there

I guess I should continue on... Life on the coast is different than anywhere I've lived before. It's a crazy mix of people, with crazy norms in life, and people are different here than many places I've lived. It's not just the Cajun influence, it's something else I'm pretty sure. I jokingly talked to my friend Dan the other day about it. He noted "down here the girls get pregnant at 17, have a couple of kids and get married, then at 24 or so, they get divorced and want to start their real marriage..."
After Katrina, the desperation of so many is obvious. Last week, I was in the office when my friend grabbed me and said she needed me to do her a favor. I could tell there was terror in her eyes and voice so I grabbed my keys and drove her to the house she needed to go to. It turns out that she had asked me to take her to a crime scene of a prestigious family from the Bay who were involved in a husband & wife, murder suicide. I'll never forget the faces of the family members huddled around, sobbing, saying "I knew it was hard, but I didn't know it had gotten this bad..." It was her husbands cousin, who was involved, and she was terribly upset. I was in shock at the scene, the apartment door covered with a sheet, so the news crew hovering nearby could be held at bay.

What could make someone become this desperate, to loose hope, to let the rage and frustration of life come out in such a way? I know the answer, we all hold it in when we are frustrated, but when you've been through something like this, the wind and the waves of Katrina wash away some of life's inhibitions. We all have, as Jean so keenly puts it "our own personal Katrina" in our lives. Whether it is family problems, drugs or alcoholism, anger issues, or so many other things, we all live in our own little Katrina. We don't all deal with it the same way. Two weekends ago, we drove over to Gulf Shores for a quick get-a-way at Martinique on The Gulf, our favorite place to go. Even though GS had been hit by Ivan not long ago, the place was looking much better, and lives were back to normal it seemed. But it's different here. Things are better, but not normal. I heard the statistic, that over 80% of Waveland residents are still in FEMA trailers. I can believe it. We've seen 4 on our street removed since we moved here in June, but still there are many within eyesight of our house. It's been 18 months since Katrina hit the coast. We have a constant calendar of that timeframe because Kate was born 10 days afterwards. However long she lives, her age will simply be a landmark for how long ago Katrina hit this area. I've heard more news people talk about weather forecasts for the next "hurricane season" and frankly I don't care. It's not in their hands.

In other news I've had a big awakening with my Company and our goals. Our new employee has been doing a great job, and she's making my life much easier, and the company more profitable. Two much needed things for us to be able to get to what I like to call "the next level." I've often heard that it takes 4 or 5 years for a business to become profitable, and that most businesses fail in the first 18 months of their operation. I certainly am aware of many, many mistakes I've made with my company. Some of them in hiring people, some mistakes, in charging too much, and missing an opportunity to get in with a company, some not keeping up with customers enough, and losing that contact which allowed them to go to another vendor. I came to a decision today to rename my company, and re-brand it with a stronger marketing presence and name. We are going to be "Fox Web Company." For those of you who might think of a guy named Carl from Memphis, don't. ') A fox is a cunning and crafty animal, who is smarter than his competition. This is the new Big River Systems. The problem with Big River Systems, was that we weren't really spending the marketing money, letting people know that BRS meant "Web" and "Web site development." No longer the case. I'm hoping to get our new site and branding launched by the end of the month. We'll see if we can get it done. I'm also hoping to have a FWC blog, that talks about business stuff, weekly, to let our clients and potential clients know what we are up to. A footnote to the fox name, is that Cammie's family in Jackson is Fox. We also knew that being in a new location, with virtually no market awareness of who we were, this would be a great time to change names, and market the "fox." I haven't finished the final look of the logo, and branding, but the look above is what we are working with. Any comments you might have would be welcome.