Not even the best agent is appropriate for every client. To find an agent who's right for you, ask for recommendations from people who have businesses like yours. You can also check with your industry's state and national trade associations for a referral or contact the Independent Insurance Agents of America. (See "Resources" at bottom of page.)
An agent can be a valuable asset in managing and growing your business. Bill Tallent Sr., a Sir Speedy Printing franchisee in Brentwood, Tennessee, has worked closely with his agent to build a customized insurance package. "He told us what coverage was necessary, but just as important, what coverage wasn't," Tallent says. "He's taught us when to call and when not to, when to file claims and when not to file claims, and how we can lower our rates."
Here are some questions to ask yourself when selecting an agent:
- Is the agent familiar with your industry? To help you determine the most appropriate coverage, an agent needs to understand how your business operates and the various risks you face. He or she also needs to know about any association-sponsored or industry-specific packages that might be available.
- Does the agent have access to the insurance carriers that offer the products you need? You need an agent who stays on top of industry changes and is always searching for new programs.
- How innovative is the agent? Look for an agent who shows creativity and innovation in responding to changes in the industry and within your operation.
- Will the agent help you prepare a bid and then negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf? Bidding and negotiating are two key elements of smart insurance shopping, and a good agent will see this as an opportunity to prove his or her skills and knowledge.
- Has the agent reviewed your contractual agreements? To completely understand your liabilities, the agent should review contracts such as property, equipment and vehicle leases; purchase orders; and other business agreements.