Bonding companies look at far more than just owners’ personal credit when it comes to contract surety over $250,000. A surety wants to have confidence in their bonded contractors prior to approval. There are numerous different actions a contractor can take to instill confidence in a bonding company. A contractor must be organized and practice restraint when necessary to gain the trust of an underwriter.
For most, the best way to run a company in an organized fashion is to hire professionals they can count on to assist in decision making. A bond producer well versed in contract bonding should be a top priority. If your agent is not knowledgeable enough or does not have the markets to fit your company’s needs, then there is little they can do to help with your bonding needs. An experienced bond producer is a must to ensure you are competitive in your bids and to allow for a bond line size that suits the needs of the contractor. An accountant that understands construction is a must. The business financial statements are the highest weighted item for underwriting a contractor. You can think of them as the underwriter’s window into your company. A contractor must walk away if their accountant does not know how to complete financial statements on a percentage of completion basis. A good relationship with a banker is a rather obvious need for any business that relies heavily on loans to operate. There are numerous other professionals that one could utilize such as a good controller and legal counsel, but we will stop our list here so it still applies to most contractors.
Surety underwriters will want to periodically meet with their medium to larger sized contractors. The underwriter will want to see that the contractor knows their cash flow and their receivables that are over 90 days. The underwriter will also want to see that the contractor can answer all other questions regarding their company. In other words, the underwriter will want to leave feeling confident that the contractor knows their industry and the specifics on their company.
Earlier, I mentioned that a contractor must practice restraint when necessary. By restraint, I mean that they can not be blinded by profits and take risks above and beyond their ordinary work. A surety will not be comfortable approving a bond twice the size of any previously bonded work for a new company. A red flag is raised for any contractor that wants to do work outside of their niche and or territory. If an underwriter is not comfortable with the contract for any reason, they will decline the contractor.
A contractor must keep in mind that they are essentially obtaining surety credit. Underwriters must use the financial documentation provided and personal relationships to decide the risk on a particular account. A contractor that is well organized with a team of professionals to assist them will create a great deal of confidence in a surety’s underwriters.