An amazing environmental insurance broker is a necessity in the environmental consulting business. What makes an insurance provider amazing?
If you don’t have insurance you will find yourself excluded from many, if not most, environmental consulting projects. If you do get hired, it will be as a 1099 subcontractor and often your client will “sell” you insurance by deducting a certain dollar amount from whatever they pay you. I’ve seen$25 to $50 per job. If you’re planning to be a Environmental Professional (EP) as a side hustle then having a handful of money deducted from each gig isn’t so bad. If you plan to grow your freelance gig into a bigger business, you’re going to need insurance.
Before we get too deep, I’m not an insurance agent and never have been. I’m an insurance buyer for our small environmental consultancy for six years. I have been disappointed and frustrated with every insurance agent we’ve had (until now) and I thought there might be some value in writing about it. Before I started my search for the insurance company I work with now, I promised myself I would “own” the process of buying insurance. I’d be a professional buyer. I feel like I accomplished my goal this last time around and I’m very happy with my choice.
I’m not making a dime on this recommendation.
What an Insurance Broker Does
Whats’ the difference between an agent and a broker?
An agent works for an insurance company and sells the insurance products of the company they work for. A broker, works for themselves, or their brokerage and sells the insurance of any insurance company they want.
The difference is enormous.
If you buy insurance from an agent, you are getting whatever products they are selling for whatever price they are selling it for. This situation is less than ideal for two reasons. The first is you’re stuck with whatever price your agent presents to you. He’s not going to shop on your behalf for the best product at the best price. The second way you can find yourself screwed is when the agent doesn’t have the product you need so they don’t tell you about it at all.
To be ridiculously clear about this; It’s not the things they ARE selling you that wind up screwing you. You get screwed by things they AREN’T telling you about what they don’t sell.
An insurance broker is a buyer of insurance products, working on your behalf to drive down the prices. Their industry knowledge helps you to evaluate the right products to fit your needs and buy them from the right companies. They take a cut like a middleman for their troubles.
It’s because the broker is working specifically to drive down prices, that you want them on your team.
Environmental Insurance Broker
Insurance, like any other industry is very large. You shouldn’t find any old insurance broker. You need to find one that understands your industry. We’ll talk about this later, but what you are looking for in an environmental insurance broker is someone you can collaborate with. You need to feel like your conversations lead to better strategy to protect against risk and drive down prices.
What Makes My Insurance Broker Amazing
Your Attention Please.
Insurance brokers are salespeople first and account management second. Selling the next client is how they get paid. You need to find a broker who has a full-time staff who services accounts or you will be last on his list of to-do’s in a day. My broker has 8 employees and their responsiveness to my calls and emails is amazing. Amazing to me is same day service almost always but definitely 24 hours to issue resolution. I have had insurance brokers who don’t roll into the office until 10:00am, don’t answer my emails for weeks and never answer my phone calls. If I have to either call or email more than once, my insurance broker is losing points in the customer service department.
Don’t Yell At Me.
I don’t know why it is, but insurance brokers seem like to yell at me. It’s not that we’re unsafe. Maybe it’s because they view the world as one big risk and by being louder and more frantic, they are conveying RISK IS OUT THERE! BE SAFE!! Whatever it is, I hate being yelled at by people I’m paying and I don’t take it lightly from bankers, lawyers, doctors, clergy or insurance brokers. I need to understand the risks but once that’s accomplished, step back and zip it, this life is mine to lead.
I need Time To Think.
Figure for every $10,000 you spend in insurance premium, your broker will make $3,000. That number is probably not perfectly correct, it could be more, I doubt it’s too much less. But all they really need to do to make their money, aside from servicing your account, is to get you to sign on the dotted line and pay your bill.
The oldest insurance broker trick in the book is to wait until the very last second to go-to-market to try to find you your next contract. What winds up happening is you find yourself scrawling a handwritten check driving over to your broker to “bind” your insurance policy so tomorrow you won’t be operating with no insurance. Essentially you have no time to think, no time to shop for a better policy and no time to take the business away from your existing broker. Boom, $3,000 commission.
It’s a really terrible way to handle a relationship.
Insurance renewals are difficult and frustrating. They take you away from being an environmental consultant. Amazing brokers shop for a policy that is as long as possible. Generally that’s two years. You will get a discount for buying a longer policy.
Synchronize Policy Renewal
Amazing insurance brokers renew all your policies on the same day, in the same month, and stay synchronized forever. It’s a little bit of a hassle to synchronize policies. It’s not your hassle, it’s your broker’s. Renewing once every two years is better than a fractured sub-year schedule across policies and coverages.
Finance Your Insurance
Environmental Insurance needs to be paid up front. It can be a huge blow to cash-flow and cost prohibitive. There are finance companies that can spread your payments out over the policy to make them easier to swallow. Amazing brokers will tell you how to spread out your payments with financing.
Environmental Insurance Broker – Industry Strategy
Amazing insurance brokers have extensive industry knowledge the insurance industry but specifically in the industry YOU are in. My broker only brokers policies in the Architecture, Engineering and Environmental industry. With the dual expertise of insurance an environmental he can provide insurance strategy on what to buy, when to buy it and how much risk you are taking if you don’t buy it. You should feel smarter after you talk to your insurance broker.
Certificates of Insurance; Right, the First Time.
It doesn’t take long before every client and every contract demands a Certificate of Insurance (COI) with whoever you are doing business with named as a “Named Insured”. These documents are a pain in the ass. First, you can’t usually make them yourself. So you send an email to your broker who creates them for you. The problem is, if your broker is small or if they have crappy software, they ‘forget’ what coverages you have and they come back different every time. This creates enormous back-and-forth as your client tries to reconcile your policy with what coverages you need to have to get onsite. An amazing broker will have your insurance profile locked down in good software that remembers who you are. They’ll turn these documents around in 24 hours or less and they’ll be right, the first time you get them. They will also keep track of who got which COIs and update them with the new ones each policy renewal. The best brokers will have a self serve portal so you can make your own COIs.
This Is The Most AMAZING Service Ever
My amazing insurance broker will review any contracts I’m bidding on before I bid. He will tell me inside 24 hours if I will need additional insurance if I win the contract. He’ll also strategize how I might negotiate the insurance requirements down. Finally, if I can’t negotiate away the insurance requirements he’ll tell me the cost to buy the additional insurance so I can factor it into my bid. This is the best customer service ever.
Our current insurance broker nails all the bullet points above and does it with flying colors. We are 6 months in with his team and they have not dropped the ball yet. You can, of course, use any insurance broker you want in this world. I would suggest you make your own list of what makes an insurance broker great and work hard to check all the boxes.
The person you want to speak with is Rick Van Oppen.
If you’re interested in what kind of insurance coverage we have you can download our Certificate of Insurance (COI) by clicking here.