The small business champion was at a crossroads when Air Power Systems Co. became the target of two product liability lawsuits.
But lessons learned in the late 1980s made the difference for Larry Mocha and Air Power Systems.
His products were clearly tagged under the hood of a truck at the heart of the suit. Mocha refused to settle. But, the insurance company did. Afterward, the company dropped APSCO and Mocha went a year without insurance.
It marked a turning point in Mocha? life. He began to crusade to reform U.S. product liability laws. Traveling to Oklahoma City and Washington, D.C., to lobby for reform, Mocha realized that small businesses were struggling for a variety of reasons. He began supporting issues important to other small business owners.
Tulsa? Air Power Systems, 8178 E. 44th St., was founded in 1964. Today it is a $4 million, 30-employee manufacturer of cylinders and valves for trucks.
?e?e learned to embrace government and use the tools government offers,?Mocha said.
Mocha has also embraced insurance companies.
Risk analysts come to APSCO, going over the entire physical plant and giving advice on things the company can do to minimize risk.
?t is almost like we used to hide from the insurance company,?Mocha said. ?ow, we embrace them. They come out and we walk with them hand-in-hand.?br>The openness pays, said Marsha McElroy, CPA at APSCO.
?or example, in areas like wiring and ergonomics,?she said.
?hey look for ways to decrease any potential threat,?she said. ?hich once we follow their recommendations, like with our safety manual or workers?comp, we earn a decrease in our premiums. They decrease a potential loss. We are safer. So, it is a win-win for both of us.?p>The biggest lesson Mocha learned was the need to better market APSCO to insurance companies. He had to be the one to tell his story to insurance agents and not other agents.
?ne of the things we learned was we had no idea how agents were representing us to other insurance companies,?Mocha said. ?e? receive a denial from a company that refused to write a policy, but we had no idea why.?br>Mocha, unconvinced insurance agents told an accurate story about APSCO, produced a marketing brochure, listing facts, describing the company culture and how serious Mocha and the company were about safety.
? decided to tell my own story,?he said. Similar to a marketing piece, it was an idea Mocha collected from another small businessperson.
Mocha became involved with legislative matters and he embraced local and state government and insurance companies. He became involved with the Tulsa Metro Chamber, the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business. He grew determined to create change for the benefit of small business.
?e tried to be visible with what we did,?Mocha said. ?o take advantage of relationship with government.?br>Mocha made it a point to invite then Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau, a Republican, to tour APSCO. Mocha worked to comply with regulations. He? done the same thing with the current state Labor Commissioner, Lloyd Fields, a Democrat.
Two months ago, Fields presented Mocha and APSCO with a Sharp Award. The Safety & Health Achievement Recognition Program honors companies for their accident record. The award was designed by the U.S. Department of Labor ?Occupational Safety and Health Administration to encourage and recognize excellence in occupational safety and health. Employers who attain Sharp status are recognized as a model for worksite safety and health.
Mocha encourages other small business owners to also be active in the legislative process.
? wish people would be more active,?he said. ?ecause I know we as small business men and women need to have input in the legislative process.?br>Mocha was never involved with tort reform until he saw what was happening in the courts. His experience made a difference.
? need to figure a way to communicate to people they need to be involved,?Mocha said. ?ore people need to drive from from Tulsa to Oklahoma City. Real business people have to make contact with lawmakers. More business people ought to run for office.?br>Mocha graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in business. The company survived the 1980s crash of the oil sector only to be hit with the suits. But after that, Mocha identified changes in his customer? strengths and he turned the company in a new direction.
Business insurance nearly 20 years ago would cost a company $20,000. Today the minimum insurance required is around $1 million. ?br>%D%A%D?n insurance policy with bodily injury coverage covers%D%A