Flood Insurance – Protecting Your Home From Flash Floods

7 Quick Facts About Flood Damage and How to Better Protect Your Home and Business.

The massive flood damage around the Birmingham metro area on April 7th, 2014 caught many residence by surprise. Based on the national Weather Service, more than 7 inches of rain was measured in Vestavia Hills, while other locations in the area reported 5 – 6 inches of rain.

The National Flood Insurance Plane (NFIP) was created by the U.S Government to help with the high cost of flood related losses of both buildings and property.

Seven Important Facts About Flood Insurance:

1. No one is safe. – People outside of high-risk areas file nearly 25% of National Flood Insurance claims. In high-risk areas, there is at least a 1 in 4 chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage. Poor drainage systems, rapid accumulation of rainfall, and broken water mains can all result in flood. Properties on a hillside can be damaged by mudflow, a covered peril under the Standard Flood Insurance Policy.

2. I have Homeowner’s/Renters Insurance policy. – Flood damage is not typically a covered peril by most homeowners/Renters insurance policies sold in the U.S.

3. Can I purchase Flood Policy in Birmingham? – If you live in a community that participates in the NFIP, you can get flood Insurance. Birmingham, Hoover, Vestavia, Homewood, Mountain Brook, Alabaster, Chelsea and many more municipalities are participating in the NFIP.

4. How much coverage is allowed by the NFIP? – Residential homes structure limit is $250,000, and content is limited to $100,000. Business Structure limit is $500,000 and $500,000 limit for business content. Renters Contents limit is $100,000.

5. Does flood insurance cover flood damage caused by storms, rivers, or tidal waters?

Yes, provided that, if confined to your property, the flood water covers at least two acres. A general condition of flood also exists if two properties are affected, one of which is yours.

6. What are Flood Zones? – Flood zones are land areas identified by the FEMA. Each flood zone describes that land area in terms of its risk of flooding. Everyone lives in a flood zone-it’s just a question of whether you live in a low, moderate, or high risk area.

7. What is covered in my basement? – Flood insurance covers your home’s foundation elements and equipment that’s necessary to support the structure (i.e. HVAC, Water Heater, Etc.). Flood Policy does not cover basement improvements, such as finished walls, floors, ceilings or personal belongings that may be kept in a basement.

How to Invest Your Equity Release in Retirement Investments

A number of events over these last few years have seriously impacted the way in which we all plan for our futures. For people who are approaching retirement age, they might just realise that their pensions are not quite enough to keep them going. The cost of living is always climbing, and other complications tend to creep in over time. For these and other reasons, pensioners often choose an equity release plan to help keep them afloat and avoid serious financial problems.

A great way in which you can be sure that you receive an adequate income over the years is by investing your money in the right places. Regardless of the type of investment you opt for, you will need some extra money to pay for the initial financial contribution. Whether you are more inclined to invest in a buy-to-let property or invest a lump sum in a short-term investment policy, you will need access to cash in order to start the process. As they say, you need to spend money to make money.

If you don’t have the necessary cash readily available, then you can take out an equity release on your existing property in order to cover your new investment. The value of your property, the type of equity release plan you choose and your age will all contribute towards determining how much you can release against your property. For example, the older you get, the more equity you can release. The greater the worth of your property, the more money you can release too.

By determining how much cash you can release, you can make informed decisions in terms of how you choose to invest that money. Many people choose to invest a large portion of their equity release so that they can benefit from their investment in years to come. They also pay off debt such as loans and credit cards so that they are free of yet another burden. Other pensioners choose to invest their newly released cash in a holiday home. This second property can eventually become their permanent home, or they rent it out in order to earn some extra money each month.

Getting An Oil Tank Removed

Are you a property owner and worried about oil tanks? Well, as undesirable as they are, they are not something to worry about, as the removal process is actually quite simple and not as inconvenient as you might have previously thought.

First things first, is to know the background of underground storage tanks (USTs). Some properties have USTs buried on their grounds due to the fact that oil as a fuel was overtaken by natural gas in the 1950s. This meant that there was no longer a need for these tanks so many of them were buried underground and thought to be out of harms way. This method, in fact, was harmful, as even though the oil was drained from the tank, there was some residue left over in many that could leak into the soil and damage the environment around it. Since then, to avoid, or stop what has already happened in terms of contamination, it has become the law in British Columbia for property owners to have the USTs removed from their land. There are very few exceptions to this rule, so if you know you have an oil tank, you should starting planning to have it removed as soon as possible.

One problem that many people imagine is, if the fuel tank is buried, then how do I know if I have one on my property? There is actually a very simple way to find out. If you call an oil tank removal firm that operates in the region, they will be able to inspect the premises and let you know. There are many companies that use special scanning equipment that utilizes radar technology and this can tell you whether or not there is a UST buried on the property without invading the land at all. Then, if a tank is found, arrangements can be made for its removal.

To start the process, a small area or land around the tank site will be cordoned off. If you go with a well reviewed and professional oil tank removal service, you will be amazed at how little disruption is caused and how not very much space is taken up while removing the oil tank. The team will operate as quickly as possible by digging up the tank and cutting it down into smaller pieces. By doing this, it will be easier to remove the oil tank through smaller spaces away from the property, for example, through the back garden gate.

A Candid Interview With the “First American” Tony Salzman – How Did This Tiger Earn His Stripes?

As I sat across from Anthony Salzman, better known in the media as “The First American”, I couldn’t help but wonder what in the world could rattle such a charismatic, over-achieving, innovating man. Well, let me tell you not very much…

Having lived and worked in Vietnam for over 18 years, this native New Yorker is tough as nails. I mean how else could he have survived and succeeded in a country under U.S. embargo, with inexistant banking system, no cars and poor infrastructure?

When you search Salzman on the internet, you find out he played a key role in the normalization of the Vietnam-US relationship as well as the signing of the Vietnam-US Bilateral Trade Agreement.

But, you also read he was “the first” at everything in Vietnam… Really? I ask him… the first at everything?

Any powerful man has his detractors, I argue, and those probably wonder if Salzman was indeed the first to ever issue a check… Wasn’t there a banking system in Vietnam before Salzman arrived in 1992? – Was Salzman really the first ever to own a car? that seems so unlikely that in the 90’s a country like Vietnam wouldn’t have cars? and then comes the biggie, the Chicago Tribune states that Salzman was “the first” American to ever do business in Vietnam. Come on! surely there were other Americans who flew to Vietnam with a dollar and a dream and somehow did business there in 1992, no?

Tony Salzman aka “Tony the tiger”, the chairman of V-TRAC Development Co. is a soft-spoken, charismatic (yes I already said that), almost humble man… As he sits across from me while I’m playing the devil’s advocate, he chuckles at my questions and smiles calmly… unbothered he explains:

T.S: “Banks. No, there were no foreign banks in this country when I arrived. No means zero. While I was here, sometime after I arrived, the ANZ bank Australia was the first. Citibank was the second. The country manager for the Australian bank was a wonderful guy named A.M. I chose to deliver the caterpillar banking business to him.

I ran one of the most successful and innovative marketing programs ever: it was a contest to find the oldest operating piece of caterpillar equipment in Vietnam. The reward was $1000. At that point in time the average monthly wage was $80. Submissions poured in from all over Vietnam. And, I thought it was high time that the first check be issued in Vietnam. It was after all a 100% cash society. A virgin banking market. So, we found the oldest caterpillar in the country that was still operating, a bulldozer built in 1937. The runner-up was 1939.

There ought to be some kind of archive photos of this someplace I’ll try to find them. When we announced the winner, it was a celebration attended by a lot of people, and the winner, who was an engineer who owned a tugboat. Sorry, the oldest engine was on the tugboat, the second oldest on the bulldozer. On the tugboat it was used for the propulsion. I remember having seen those huge checks when I was a kid on game shows. The ones the size of the bed. I decided that that was exactly what my company and the bank needed. A gigantic check with both of our logos on it made out to “bearer”. One of my staff members described the smile on the winners face as ear to ear Ivory! Well, the ivory disappeared when he saw this thing, the check, which I announced he had won. During the ceremony I proceeded to explain what a check is: a negotiable instrument. I told the audience that it was about time for Vietnam to start using negotiable instruments, and here is the first one! I invited the very perplexed men to come to the stage, and then I gave him a cheap plastic pen. He looked even more confused. The huge check was held by two bankers as backdrop to me and the very perplexed winner.

At this point in time I asked the bankers to turn the check around to show the blank side to the audience. They did this, and then I asked the winner to sign his name so as to endorse it. You can imagine, he looked even more perplexed then more perplexed then more perplexed! He did not want to sign. I then directed his attention to another representative from the bank who was holding two plastic shopping bags bearing the banks logo. The shopping bags were bursting full of cash. The ivory smile returned. He started to head for the bankers. I said no, you have to sign your name on the back of the check. He really did not know what I was talking about but he realized that he was not going to get near those bags of cash unless he signed his name

So, he signed his name. Then he headed for the bags of cash and once again I told him no, the two other bankers who were holding the gigantic check gave it to him to carry over to the guy holding the two bags of cash he carried the big check over to the other fellow, then an assistant took it from him, and the bags of cash were delivered into his hands. At that point in time probably only me, my wife, and the bankers understood what the heck was going on! Certainly nobody else did! Anyway, that was the first check negotiated in the history of Vietnam, regardless of which government regime one talks about.

Now, you have become the fifth or sixth person in the world to understand the nature of that ceremony and transaction. Unfortunately, I’ve never written any of this any place, or told any reporter. Eventually I’ll find the check picture I hope, in any case it’s quite a story.”

Quite a story indeed, and that takes care of how the tiger earned his stripe as “the first” American to ever issue a check in the history of Vietnam.

But how about being “the first” businessman to do business in Vietnam, that one is pretty preposterous I tell him, now how are you going to explain that Tony?

He smiles, and without a roar he says: “About being the First American doing business, here I confess that the media took some liberties. In fact, there were two others, neither of them had any employees, but there were two others. Oh yes, I am referring to two other Americans in Hanoi, there were some others in South Vietnam, I never knew who they were.”

So that settles it, Anthony Salzman may not have been the only ” first American” ever to do business in Vietnam, but he most certainly was “the first American” ever to have employees in Vietnam. And that is precisely why in 2010 he was bestowed with the most prestigious honor, by receiving the Vietnam Friendship Medal, from President Nguyễn Minh Triết, who recognized the American’s enormous contributions to Vietnam, principally as a pioneer whose personal and business commitment opened a new chapter of friendship and forged the way for others.

While I am impressed with all the anecdotes Salzman shared with me, I point out to him that the devil’s advocate is rarely satisfied…

IDG: I have to ask Tony, the “first” to own a car in Vietnam? Are you kidding? It was the 90’s, every somewhat civilized country had cars… really how could this be?

Without a pause Salzman explains: “NN-35-01, so 35 means United States,and 01 means the first person to register!

The problem arose when the first United States ambassador was appointed. According to protocol, he had to have the number one from the United States!

So I hated negotiation and sued during which I was told that I had to surrender my 01 license plate. There was a solution, typical Vietnamese style: I was given the license number 00 001!

There’s also a story about how I made the match between the ambassador, whose wife had tragically passed away due to terrible illness, and, you guessed it, the female banking officer from the Australia bank.

Now, if your friends the detractors do not believe that I introduced the first American ambassador to his wife, they need to read the next installment of the story!

Hint: The American ambassador had been a prisoner of war in Vietnam. And the lady banker was a Vietnamese immigrant to Australia. So, the Australian newspapers had headlines saying “U.S. ambassador marries Vietnamese girl”.

Well, this young woman was no slouch! She shot back to reporters saying the headline should have said “ex con Marries Australian diplomat”!

Hopes, I blew the punchline. She had been with the Australian aid organization in Vietnam before she joined the bank.”

That indeed takes care of the “First” to own a car in Vietnam, and of the best American matchmaker in Vietnam. Not only is the record straight but engraved in “steel” rather than stone, as Salzman tells me he still owns the older model Mercedes with its 00 001 Vietnam license plate.

As I thank Salzman for this rather uncanny interview, he graciously thanks me and adds: “When I was a kid there were these stories called “the just so stories” by Rudyard Kipling. My favorite was “how the elephant got its trunk”. I feel like I’ve explained a little bit the same way. [laughs]

In our Just So Story, I say this “tiger” has definitely explained how he has earned his stripes.

Core Agency Values – What Are They and Why Are They Important?

Let’s begin with the question; why are agency values important? Agency values are important because they will likely determine the success or failure of your agency. Now that gets my attention.

Whenever the success or failure of a business venture rests on one concept, it warrants the time and effort to understand what’s behind the question; what focus or concept do we believe will best produce the result we desire. So, one might ask; just exactly what are some agency values.

To begin, Values are what drives effort and effort is what produces results, good or bad. Effort in the wrong places seldom produces the right results. So there are really two things here that are important-Effort and Direction. While both are important, Effort comes first-you gotta have some before you can direct it. Today we are only talking about Effort, Direction is for another day.

An example of how values drive Effort is often and most visibly played out in sales. A lot of sales activity (Effort) often produces more sales but possibly not the right sales (Direction). Now here is the exciting part-You can really, control your effort by choosing the right Values and matching the talent of new hire to those Values. The key here is to understand that people work to satisfy their values, not yours and don’t try to put into someone something that is not already there. All that boils down to looking for and hiring people who have values that match the agency needs.

So now it is beginning to get clear. Why do we want to know your agency values? Answer; so you can hire people with values similar to those of our agency. Now what are some agency Values of importance?

1. Theoretical Values- those who value knowledge and continuous learning or intellectual growth.
2. Traditional Values- those who value the tradition inherent in social structure, rules, regulations and principals.
3. Utilitarian Values- those who value achievement, results, and rewards for their investments of time, resources and energy.
4. Individualistic Values- those who value personal recognition, freedom and control over their future and the future of others.
5. Social Values- those who act to enhance the well-being of others.
6. Aesthetic Values- those who pursue a balance in their lives, who are creative, self-expressive and have a love for beauty and nature.

And here is the real important stuff, after 40 years of research and working with agencies, of all sizes, we know the values most likely to produce success in any situation.