Insurance coverage trend for running events

Michael Iser insurance risk management expert

The running race and event community has been impacted greatly by the pandemic. Many events have been cancelled, postponed or scaled down. Right now we are slowly seeing a limited number of marathon, 5K, 10K races and events scheduled for summer 2021 and later. Our guest today is Michael Iser, veteran insurance and risk management advisor. He talked to us about how race directors and event professionals should consider when it comes to insurance coverage when planning and budgeting for future running races and events.

Determining right amount of insurance coverage for running events

One key takeaway that race directors need to keep in mind is that insurance companies are not likely to insure for COVID or other transmittable disease. the responsibility of the race directors will be to have an abundance of safety measures in place to protect health and safety of participants. Insurance coverage for running events will be in a non-disease way.

Insurance as strategic cost

Michael also advised running events clients to view insurance as a strategic cost instead of operational cost, as it serves to protect the profit of the business. In terms of risk management outside of insurance, Michael suggests to always have contracts drafted with the parties that you are dealing with, and possibly have your name added to the insured, if necessary. Also doing background checks on your key staff, and volunteers every other year, especially if your event involves underage kids. These are just some of the things an experienced insurance and risk management professional will suggest.

Insurance advisor vs broker

As Michael pointed out, working with an advisor is different from a broker. Many brokers sell insurance policies. An advisor will listen to you concerns, your business and operations and advise a solution that will best protect your interest. The experience of an advisor is also important as he/she has gone through many business cycles and the experience will help them navigate your business.


Michael Iser has worked for Associated Agencies, Inc. for over 35 years, he been a licensed insurance broker since 1976. In addition to heading up the Race and Special Event Practice Group, he specializes in providing insurance and risk management expertise to the Retail and Wholesale Jewelry Market, as well as Religious Institutions and Non-Profits. 

Associated Agencies Inc. is a 135 year old, family owned and run commercial insurance brokerage writing all lines of insurance coverage throughout the United States.  Specialty areas of practice include large real estate, wholesale & retail jewelers, nonprofits, religious institutions, hospitality and our Race and Special Event Practice Group.

The Race and Special Event Practice Group educates, develops and writes insurance programs for race organizers from world class race events to the local 5K. Our programs can be written on a stand-alone basis or written to work with those available through USATF.  In addition, we have markets to provide coverage for event managers and other vendors that provide support to races.

His goal to reach the finish line with a successful event and to know that your organization will be protected in the event of a race day incident.  

Michael is a member of Running USA, National Center for Spectator Security and Safety (NCS4), The Event Safety Alliance, The International Institute for Race Medicine, and Road Race Management.

Contact Michael Iser:

Associated Agencies Inc  


Swire Ho #thepromoguy (00:01):

Welcome to the small business show. We created a platform to have candid and in-depth conversations with Nora. And this is professional. We find fascinating, learn the tips and tricks for marketing, running, and growing a small business. The small business show is the official podcast of Garuda promo and branding solutions. Are you going Mike? I’m good. Thank you. Uyou have so many, so much experience actually fill up my entire sheets as a buyer,ufor,ufor the viewer and listener. Would you mind to give us a quick bio and your experience in the insurance industry?

Mike Iser (00:38):

Sure. I came to work for this company in 1977. Didn’t even know how to spell the word insurance at that point. And over time, I moved into the production side where I’ve been since 1982. And at that, and I’ve been privileged enough to work with some really good people in the insurance industry and learn from them and at the same time, be able to specialize in a lot of different areas.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (01:07):

Okay. I know one of your focus and your leading the program is race and special events industry. So as we know the industry has been affected deeply and all the events that I know I cancel postpone. And then on your side, I wanted to get your take for 2021. If we are going to have events or running races,how does the insurance industry looks? Are we going to get more expensive in terms of premium or maybe, maybe some other even are not able to get their insurance that they used to get?

Mike Iser (01:42):

Yeah. So what we’re seeing now is the the running industry is still on hold, except in very specific cases where you’re seeing very small events of a couple of hundred people. The majority of the events that you’re going to see are going to be in the third and fourth quarter of this year, at this point, what we’re seeing in the insurance industry from a pricing perspective is we are seeing an increase in some pricing and, and insurer insurers are looking very seriously at what is going on and what they’re being asked to ensure to make sure that all of the safety and security protocols are being put into place. And obviously as we move further down through the year and the vaccines come along and people get those, that will also make a difference in the way the insurance companies look at it.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (02:35):

Are there any special type insurance that will be available? Because obviously there is a risk right now for this type of event. That’s why, you know, none, not a lot of people are putting events right now, moving forward. Do you see there will be like a special coverage,uto ensure like mass gathering events?

Mike Iser (02:54):

Well, I think that the, the key will be that and what everyone has to is that there’s not going to be any coverage down the line for anything dealing with COVID or with any kind of communicable disease that there will be full IX policy exclusions going forward for an indefinite amount of time. What we very often see in the insurance industry is one insurance company will decide whether they’re willing to take a chance and that might force the issue, but don’t expect to see anything for the next three or four years. They’re going to lay, this is gonna become the responsibility of the the race directors and the companies putting on the events to put on the safest events possible forgetting the whole need for insurance as respects the, the, the health safety of the participants. They, people will still need to buy insurance to cover the events themselves, but in a non disease basis.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (04:01):

Hmm. Okay. So since you have been in the industry for so long, and I always ask this question to our experience insurance agent this, the approach that we have, you know, as a small business, you know, a normal, I suppose like that I would do, I would admit as to, you know, figure out what coverage that we are going to need. And I shop for three quotes, right. For the same coverage. And I pick the lowest one, you know, but then I know your, your approach. You have a different approach for risk management. Can you talk on both ends and why you think that risk management is a better way to do in terms of getting the right insurance?

Mike Iser (04:36):

Well, like, I, I fully understand that businesses have to be concerned about what their expenses are and that’s why they’re going to always try to find the lowest price. The problem is buying the lowest price. Doesn’t always buy you the best coverage. So when we look at it from a different perspective, it’s what is that broker going to provide to you as the guy that is buying the coverage? So I think they, a couple of things that you want to know, first of all, that people have to understand is insurance cannot solve every problem that they’re going to find. But if the coverage is written correctly, that’s going to make the situation better overall. You can’t insure everything, but if you do have coverage and you do have a loss, what you do have will bring you back to where you were before the loss.

Mike Iser (05:28):

The other thing that I really stress is that instead of seeing insurance as an operational costs, which is I’m going to spend X number of dollars in my budget, I really have been talking to people about making it a strategic expense. And when we define that, that’s going to be an expense that will strongly protect the profit of your business. And if we look at things that way, that how are we going to get up and running and those dollars that we’re going to spend, you may never may never have that loss, but like in anything else, you need to be protected and you want to be protected is in as many ways as you possibly can. And so I think that’s, those are the two key pieces. Then when we talk about it from a risk management perspective, you can say, well, what can we do to better protect our business that may not involve insurance directly?

Mike Iser (06:23):

So one of the things that we talked to all of our clients about it doesn’t have to be in the race industry, but even the, any of the general business industry, as well as if you are going to have a business relationship with somebody, you want to make sure that you have an agreement, a contract so that everybody knows exactly what is going to be expected. And then if you want somebody to name you as an additional insured on your on their policy to protect you from their actions, the agreement that you have in place will benefit you in that regard. Otherwise the additional insured endorsement doesn’t work. So you’re able to lay off the liability on someone else. We have had claims in the running industry where, because of the additional insured endorsement and because of the contract being in place that our client has not had to pay for anything, because it became the responsibility of the party that in this particular case set up a fence that had collapsed.

Mike Iser (07:23):

So you, there are ways of doing this. That is, are, that are, is outside of, of insurance. And that it becomes our responsibility to talk to you or anybody else to say, these are what your exposures are, and this is how you should be doing better. So the whole issue of certificates is, is really key. One of the other things that we’re seeing a lot in the running industry is as we expand the, the programs, there’s a requirement to be doing background checks on everybody. So your full-time employees, for sure your key volunteers should be background check, especially if you’re dealing with, with young, with underage kids, if you’re running special programs within the industry for kids then you need to be background checking and the insurance companies are going to want to know what you’re doing, and that you’re looking at these things on a regular basis. You don’t have to background check somebody every year, but if you do it every couple of years, that that’s going to work just fine. So that’s a risk management piece because now you’re trying to protect your business. Is there an expense? Sure. But at the other end of the day, it may protect you in a much, in a much different way than what you would expected before

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (08:43):

Start. That could mean a lot of work, you know, for like a bigger event that could mean thousands of people. Right. But obviously there’s something to consider, you know, if in the case that someone didn’t check out at least, you know, right. So I want to bring back to your example. And I think, you know, I put, in my perspective, I will also see, you know, like you mentioned, you know, having your broker as your advisor. So would you try to understand, you know, the policy that you’re written and also get into more of you know, the client’s business, you know, because one of the, the reason that, you know, we recently encountered a contract that we need to work on. The company wants us to include them in the policy, and then we try to get that and insurance just covers, but not a lot of Asian took the time to understand opposites. You know, there are certain dynamics are in way that we purchase and certain way we deal with then they just want to fit into the template. So can you tell us a little bit more, you know, why having you as an advisor to actually advise their business can actually help on the bottom line,

Mike Iser (09:57):

The effect our company just changed its name last year to include business advisors within the name of our company, because that’s where we want to position ourselves, that if I’m going out to see you as a new client or anybody else for that matter I must be able to sit down and talk with them and understand exactly what it is that your business is doing and how you’re doing it. When somebody calls me and says, I need insurance, and I only want to spend X number of dollars, they are not disturbed, not the client that we want to necessarily be dealing with. We want to build a relationship with someone where I understand exactly what your business is and how you’re going to get from point a to point B. And then we will help you develop the insurance program. Very often. One of the things that I see all the time is that a small businessman like yourself wants to do business with a much larger company.

Mike Iser (10:59):

You’re going to call me as the broker and say, Michael, these guys want me to carry $10 million of liability insurance. And that’s going to put me out of business right now. Right? So my suggestion at that point is that we can draft something. We work with you so that you can go back to that guy and say, look, this doesn’t make any sense. We’re going to only sell you a bunch of jackets like this. We’ll we can, we have X number of dollars of liability insurance. What are you guys willing to do? Sometimes large companies will adjust other companies. Sometimes those companies say, no, we won’t, we’re not willing to budge at that point. You, as a business person have that decision, do you want to spend that kind of money so that you can say that you’re working with this particular type of a company, or are you willing to walk away from it?

Mike Iser (11:52):

And I think that’s one of the toughest things that any business person has to do, especially when they’re selling a product is knowing at which point they’re going to say, I can’t do this anymore. And all I have to walk away from it or something of that nature. And we, we approach people like that all the time. That is part of our job as an advisor, not just selling that product. And that’s, if you want to just have somebody sell you a product, go deal with a state farm or an Allstate guy, because that’s all they’re going to do is sell you based on price. But if what you want is someone that has the experience. In my case, since 1977, that we’ve gone through a lot of different business cycles of business problems. We’ve we have the experience. Then you want to find somebody with a lot of experience, and it doesn’t matter what the industry is, whether it’s the promotional stuff like you do, or the running special events, or I also do non-profits and jewelers and all sorts of things. It’s our job to understand what those businesses are, what is important to them and to listen to what they’re saying?

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (12:57):

Well, that that’s very important. And I, I’m glad that I used myself as an example, you’re correctly. That’s the, that that is the exact scenario, a big, bigger organization want to do business with us, but then they want us to insures them entirely, you know, which is, and then at the end, you know, like you suggest, you know, we got to figure out all the profits that we potentially will have, you know, getting those orders. Is it worth, you know, taking out the insurance premium that can covers it, or, you know, a business decision will be made. Maybe we get our foot in the door and develop a relationship with them. Maybe at first, you know, with the premium, we are paying on a podcast, you know, at minus the profit, but then there could be potential bigger orders down the line. Is that a viable position for our business? So I think having, you know, you as an advisor, then you can say, Oh, if they want more, this is what you’re going to look at. And maybe you can go back to them, say, you know, we don’t really deal with that. And can you you know, change your wording a little bit. And they will say yes. And sometimes they say no, right.

Mike Iser (14:06):

And we, and we go through this all the time. And we have somebody that, that, that, that provides services in the political realm. And we will get a request for, to look at a contract and they always ask for higher limits and we go back and we say, no, you don’t have this it’ll cost you X number of dollars to buy it. They go back to the, to their client or their prospect and 99% of the time, the deal is a done deal. And we don’t have to sell them anything more and they can move on and do what they need to do. But again, it’s all based on what are you going to, what is your insurance broker willing to do to help you out? Is he willing to get on the phone with you and the person who’s asking for this and to, for a three-way type of a conversation to help you out.

Mike Iser (14:55):

Those are the kinds of things. And I think that the key to, to any broker, especially the best brokers of the guys, the men and women, I should say it that way, that, that live and breathe their business. I think that’s, that’s the key piece is that you just can’t be an insurance broker from eight in the morning until six at night, that five days a week, w we were forced to live and breathe our business. And the guy that is I’ve had people call me at seven o’clock at night, and I answered the phone and they say, why are you answering the phones? I said, because why are you calling me? He messaged us a note. Now you’re going to talk to me because that’s the key difference. That is a difference. And that is so when you say to me, well, I’m going to get three quotes and I’m going to take the lowest one.

Mike Iser (15:43):

You know what, at the end of the day, the pricing, isn’t going to be that different from a Hartford to a travelers, to, to whatever. But the, at the end of the day is, do you feel comfortable with that broker? Is he going to be there is his staff going to be there to help you, you know, my company, but in all of our offices, we have over 150 employees. My responsibility is the broker is to, to know which person in my office I want to go to. So they can help you. If you have claims problems, if you have a bunch of employees, if you’re a larger company, you have 50, a hundred, 150 employees, and you’re having workers’ compensation problems. We have people in this office that can help you with that. And, and we’re willing to do that. Oh, and it doesn’t cost you anything, a lot of other places will charge you. So your job is the business owners should ask the question. What else are you going to provide? What is going to be the value added to dealing with me V dealing with you as the, as my agent and how has it can help my business? I think that’s, that’s a key question to that. You always want to have an answer to,

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (16:53):

Yeah. I love the adviser approach because, you know, as a business, hopefully we’re, we’re growing right. Then as you get bigger, as you get into new territory, I’ll call it. Then you have different needs. So advisor who knows your business, and then knowing who to ask and what to do on the back end is very important because there might be a program that you guys have that you didn’t know about, you know, reading blogs or whatever way that we get our information. But by talking to you, do, you might actually save money at the end. Maybe there’s a program that already bundle with what you’re going to need with the growth that you have. And then, you know, just by knowing you, you know, there are better suggestions that better serves your needs,

Mike Iser (17:33):

Right? So one of the there’s two things. Let me just give you two things. First of all, I think that as we come out of this COVID piece, businesses have to recognize the fact that, that it’s not going to be the way it was a year ago. Businesses are not going to be the same where they’re working out of an office. They’re working out of people’s homes, whether, you know, whatever the case is. And so the insurance broker is going to have to be in a position to recognize that and to ask those questions as to what, what, what are the changes that your businesses and we’re going to have to work with you in order to do that? I think the other piece that, that you, as a small business owner want to know is, are the keys? What, what coverages should I have in the event that I have a loss?

Mike Iser (18:20):

So one of the examples that we always use is cyber liability in the event that your computer system gets hacked, or you walk in one morning and there’s been a ransomware attack, all of this stuff that goes on and that could put you out of business. And I have had situations where, you know, I offer this coverage to people all the time and say, no, no, no, Michael, I’m never going to have a hack. It’s never going to happen. Guess what it does happen. And it happens up in the cloud. It doesn’t matter whether your, your, your equipment is in your office, or it’s sitting up in the cloud. You can still get hacked and you are going to have responsibilities to get up and running. Will you have enough money coming in to help you because of your loss of business. And that happens all the time.

Mike Iser (19:04):

So when people read an article in a journal, or they read it in a newspaper about business situations, you know, a fire or cyber loss, or like these things actually happen, and it doesn’t just happen to the other guy, it’s going to happen to you and you need to be ready and your broker needs to be ready in order to be responsive. Now, there may not be anything. I have a guy that called me last week after the first snowfall in Chicago, where car went rammed into the building. Now his, his space is okay so far, but what should he do? How should it, and we’ve had two or three calls just so that he would make him feel better about what his next steps would be. And I offered to talk to them. He said, no, I can handle that part. That’s fine. But sometimes all we’re there is to hold somebody’s hand and help them over a difficult place.

Mike Iser (19:59):

And that, that is a key thing. And there’s not a lot of brokers out there that are willing to do that. But if you’re an advisor, you’re, you are always going to be the advisor. Now we may not make any money being an advisor. Right. Do only, we only make some fee if we sell you a product. Right. But that over the long run, that’s the key that we want to make sure that we’ve ensured your business, that we’ve insured your home, that we’ve got your life insurance to protect you and your family. So I don’t have to look at your wife and say, Oh my God, why didn’t we do something like that? And so those are that’s. Those are the key things to being an advisor and forgetting about this business of, well, I saved a buck 98. So I went with somebody else.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (20:42):

Yeah. Well, I love that approach. And since Mike, you’re the perfect person. I actually do. You want to become an advisor in marketing? You know, my clients are getting journey. I want them to kind of exactly done what you said in the insurance industry. When you think of anything marketing, you know, I want to be the advisor that can help them. And like you said, I know different people that could help them on the backend, or maybe if I’m unable to do so, I would already know someone who can help them. So they call me, I don’t like to say, I don’t necessarily make money then and there, but then they will call me because they trust me that I can help them. So with that, you know, with all the experience that you have, do you always deal with your business that way? Or how did you develop that approach and figure out that it’s better to be an advisor in your industry than just to cold call, like a hundred people and ask them for insurance? Like when did you discover that for yourself?

Mike Iser (21:41):

I still can. We still do it somewhat like that. But I think really I was taught by, by some of the best insurance guys I’ve ever met in my, in my career. And they were mentors to me frame in some cases for over half of my life. And when you sit with you, I would go out on a call and I would sit there and it might be a hundred. It was one of those places were dry cleaners, and I’d be, we’d be there in the middle of the summer was a hundred degrees and we were still wearing jackets and ties then. And I just sat there. I didn’t have any, I couldn’t talk. Right. I had nothing to say, but my, the guy I was with was talking to his client and I had to just sit there and listen. And it was the hardest lesson, but that’s how you do what you watch, what somebody else does.

Mike Iser (22:31):

Unfortunately, that guy has passed away 20 years ago, but it is not unusual to this day that someone will call me up and say, well, I remember when you used to come in here and Arthur would tell me what to do. And I’m still doing that. And that when, when I finally retire or leave his business, which is, hopefully it’s not in a long time, I want people to be able to say, my guys are used to say this to me. And I’m still doing that because I became a trusted advisor to him just like his accountant and his, a lawyer and his banker, because that’s the key. That is what I personally want. And it’s based on watching what other guys do, you know? And sometimes, you know, you, we do a good job, but then somebody might think that they’re doing a better job. Okay. Sometimes we win. Sometimes we lose, but our job is to be there for you when you need us, whatever that means. And that can be seven days a week. And I do get calls on Saturday and Sunday as well, because I want people know the only time they can’t get ahold of me is when I’m playing golf, because I want not take my phone on the golf course, but other than that, it can always get ahold of me. Okay. So it’s,

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (23:46):

It’s good that you recommend the listener to find a good mentor or someone that you you want it to model and look up to you and just follow their footsteps and see how they approach their business. You know, how they interact with clients and then learn from that. So you learn by doing

Mike Iser (24:04):

And, and even listen. Even I, yesterday, I had a call with a guy who’s been in the business, as long as me and we don’t get to see each other because of COVID, we’re rarely in the office at the same time, but I was on the phone with him for an hour. We discussed a lot of different stuff, including business and what he does and what I do. And so even at this point, after 40 plus years in the business, we still learn from other people that, that do the job.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (24:31):

So any tips or advice for people who might stumble onto the insurance industry, you know, since COVID like any tips for the young, young ones out there in the industries,

Mike Iser (24:43):

You know, I think that you, I think this is applies to whether it’s the insurance business or the promotional business or any other business. If you want to be successful, you have to live and breathe. What you do, you have to love it. We had a sales meeting this morning and the CEO of our company said to everybody, you know, one of the things I love is being able to get up in the morning because I love going to work. And I will say, I’m not, maybe not as excited as he is. I do believe that as well. I work with a really the office here when we’re all here is a great group of people. The office itself is a reason to come here because we have, it’s a good company and they stand behind us and they allow us to do the things that we need.

Mike Iser (25:30):

A lot of businesses don’t allow you to do that. And I think so when a young person coming in and I tell them this, they have to learn from somebody. They have to be lucky enough to find people that will teach them to be mentors. And listen, we have, we hire interns here coming out of college. Last summer, our internship program continued on in spite of, you know, what was going on. We hired two of the five that we brought in and we’ve got another five coming in. So that’s the key to building successful businesses. And then what I can do is if they’re interested in knowing about what I do, I’m always willing to talk you. And I know that. So there’s always something that can be said, or it can be taught. But you have to really want to live and you have to love what you do and you have to live and breathe. What you do.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (26:20):

I think the it’s the true key to success. You know, you could talk to someone who be in the industry for as long as you do. And then you can tell by talking to that, they have lost their passion. It becomes what they do. But then, you know, by talking to you, I was very impressed. You know, you’re still learning, you’re still changing. And you like really like what you do. So you can really tell by just talking to that person, you know, whatever that you in and you know, which side do you want to be on? You want to be grumpy and just answer the phone, or you want to be passionate still after all this year.

Mike Iser (26:53):

And I’ve, and I’ve seen examples of all of those things, right? I’ve seen when you’re grumpy, you answer the phone and you lose the business, and then you say, well, why did you lose the business? Well, because you weren’t nice to the person when they called, right? So it’s, it’s, it’s, if you, if I promise you I’m going to do something, I have to do it that, and in a timely manner in our office, we have to return all calls and all emails, if not within an hour, within a couple of hours, I mean, that’s just the unwritten rule of this place. And people learn to expect that from us, it’s all about service. It’s all about being there for the client. And so that when we, when we talk about what is happening in the insurance industry, we have to be there and, and help them to get to the next step. It doesn’t matter what kind of businesses, whether it’s the running business, whether it’s your kind of business and promotions or the local dry cleaner, or anybody else, we always have to be there for them.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (27:53):

So, Mike for the viewer listener who want to reach out to you when you’re not going on your tee time, what would be the best way

Mike Iser (28:01):

They can, even if they email me, I’ll always respond back to them. I think you’ve had those there’s, you’ve posted those where they can always call me. I think that information is out there too. I’m on Facebook. I’m on LinkedIn. I’m rural. I can be found.

Swire Ho #thepromoguy (28:16):

Okay. Thank you so much. Mike loved the information and I particularly love your approach, you know, being an advisor. So for anyone who’s listening, if you’d like to show a piece, subscribe and like, and we would love some reviews for you, if you’re listening on Apple podcasts and thank you so much for coming on today, Mike,

Mike Iser (28:33):

My pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity.