Got a business-related question for Mister Sparky? Send it to Mister Sparky (AKA Patrick Kennedy) is the owner of Mister Sparky, Inc. in Atlanta and the president of Electricians' Success International in St. Louis.

Any tips for keeping my
insurance premiums/workman's comp rates down?

That's a very valid concern, especially as insurance rates continue to rise for everyone. It's incredibly important to not only have the proper insurance for your business in this day and age, but also the proper amount of coverage. But being protected can certainly get expensive, so here are some tips for keeping those pesky premiums a little lower.

Shop around — This is by far the most effective way to keep your insurance rates in check. Most people get complacent with insurance and don't shop around. Even if you have a great relationship with your insurance agent, don't let that get in the way of doing the right thing for your business. Look for lower rates every year if you can — you may find another provider that will give you the same coverage for less. And if your existing insurance company is aware that you're getting competing offers, they may lower your premiums.

Consider your deductible — If your technician did $1,000 of damage to your client's home, would you be willing to pay that $1,000? If so, why is your deductible set below that amount? Most business owners would be willing to pay more than their deductible to settle a problem. If that's the case with you, raise it to an amount you're comfortable with. It should instantly lower your rates a little.

Cultivate a safety mindset — When it comes to keeping your workman's compensation rates down, you need to lower your number of injuries. That means teaching and enforcing safety. Appoint someone in your company to oversee a program devoted to the subject. Hold regular meetings on safety topics. Bring in an outside expert to talk to your team about safe work practices. Do whatever you can to show your team how important safety is to their success and the success of your company.

My crew is getting a little bigger so I want to start holding weekly meetings. What kind of topics should I cover?

The exciting thing about training is that you have an endless supply of topics you can cover. When it comes to training your team, you should get every individual in your company involved. I recommend meeting every week so you can stay on the right track. And make sure you address different topics with each part of your team.

Technicians — Take a two-pronged approach to training your technicians: communication and technical. At the beginning of the week at Mister Sparky, we like to focus on communication and how our technicians interact with clients on each call and how they present the price of the work. This involves a lot of role playing with your team. Later on in the week we focus on safety and technical training. If we have a call-back or an unusual repair during the week, we'll focus on it in that week's session so everyone on the team knows how to handle it next time.

Call takers and dispatchers — Train your call takers constantly on how they answer the phones. Review their scripts and record them on live calls so you can review the tapes with them later. Train your dispatchers on the scripts, too, and focus on how they can dispatch your team more effectively.

Managers — You should also meet with your managers once a week to review your team's performance and to set goals for the coming week. Train your managers to stay on top of your company's key numbers and focus on collecting any accounts receivable.

Training every individual in your company will take some time and requires consistency, but it's one of the most important functions of your job as a business owner. Make sure your team members know their roles, and provide them with the training to carry them out successfully.