Over the past four articles of Is your bond company slowing your growth, we have covered a variety of topics that could be impacting your bonding limits and how you can tackle those. These have ranged from managing capital and how the bond companies view certain financial items to ensuring that you have timely reporting that makes sense and inspires confidence with your partners.
In our final issue we will explore the area of character, relationships and trust.
In the bonding world character, relationships and trust are still a critical part to building bonding capacity, securing that stretch job and also ensuring you can maintain support even in tough times. For bond companies these are often the toughest things to evaluate but if you can put yourself, your company and your team in a position that the bond company has a high degree of trust and comfort in you then it will set your business up for success.
Annual bond company meetings
If you are a regular user of bonds, any good bond broker will ensure you have a chance to sit down with the bond company. Not only is this an opportunity for them to ask questions about you and your business but it should be looked at as an opportunity for you to understand more about the bond company and what they are focused on. In addition, many of these underwriters are having regular conversations with dozens of bond brokers and contractors and so will have a good pulse on many of the market dynamics and hot button issues that contractors are facing.
A bond broker should be setting an agenda with the bond company ahead of time and also be sitting down with you prior to the meeting to understand the agenda. They should also be asking you for feedback on the agenda so topics can be added for the bonding company to present on. These meetings should not feel like an inquisition and for maximum benefit should be structured as an open back and forth conversation where both parties are learning about the other.
Action items from the meeting should be compiled afterwards, shared with each party and the bond broker should ensure any follows-ups are acted on promptly to ensure maximum value for each party.
Unfortunately, many contractors view these meetings as a necessary evil, attempt to withhold as much information as possible and treat it like a zero-sum game. If your bond broker has placed you with a reputable company that understands the surety business you are doing yourself a disservice if that is your strategy. Ultimately, the bond company doesn’t succeed if you don’t succeed and so their goal is to help you and your business to secure profitable opportunities, advise you on common pitfalls and help you de-risk your business. At the end of the day the bonding relationship should be viewed as a partnership.
Another common pitfall contractors run into is being slow to share challenges they are having in the business. In any good partnership, both sides want to avoid surprises. Bonding is not different. A contractor doesn’t want to be surprised by an out of the blue decline of a bond and the bonding company doesn’t want to be surprised by a significant loss.
At the end of the day, bonding companies go through challenges with their contractors regularly and understand there is risk in the business and sometimes contractors will experience a tough job. Similar to the transparency point, bond companies and bond brokers have a wealth of experience in helping contractors navigate tough times.
If you are avoiding sharing information about a challenging business issue you could be depriving yourself of another answer or solution you possibly had not thought of.
Our advice to our contractors is to share challenges readily with your bond broker and bond company but at the same time ensure you have a reasonable road map on how you are going to emerge from the challenge. Nothing will forge a bonding relationship stronger than parties sticking through tough times together, openly communicating and delivering on a plan to manage complex business issues.
Over the past five parts of this series, we hope you have been able to get a better glimpse into the items that might be holding you back in your relationship with your bond company. Remember, as a business owner your goal should be to surround yourself with partners, advisers and relationships that will help you grow and manage risk in your business. If you are not building a relationship built on trust you are doing yourself a disservice.
Jamie Collum is the vice-president of construction for FCA Insurance. He has delivered numerous seminars and presentations on construction bonding and general industry updates in Ontario to various construction associations over the years. Andrew Cartwright is the vice-president of surety for FCA Insurance. With over 10 years of experience as an RVP of a large national surety company, Cartwright uses his expertise to help FCAs clients manage and build their surety capacity.
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