The construction industry is fickle. Much like the economy, it ebbs and flows and provides no safety net for those who take a misstep. M.J. Schuetz Insurance Services Inc. provides construction firms with proper insurance and surety bond programs to help ensure that contractors will not only be able to afford to do the job, but they will be able to complete the job profitably and on time.
“People that we work with know that we would not provide an insurance program or a surety/bond program that is less than what is needed, ”said Vickie Wolcott, President, M.J. Schuetz. “We do our best to bring good options to our customers that will work. I want to feel like we have made a difference. I have my heart in this and I really like helping people.”
Decades of Experience
Maurice. J. Schuetz, Sr. began M. J. Schuetz Agency, Inc. in 1943, in downtown Indianapolis. Having been a surety bond underwriter for USF&G for several years, he was used to working with construction companies and decided to focus his agency on that industry.
For the first 14 years, Schuetz Sr. was the only full-time employee with his wife, Alfaratta D. Schuetz, working part-time. In 1957, their son, Maury Schuetz, Jr., joined the agency and later, their son-in-law, DV Pace, joined in 1960.
M.J. Schuetz was originally located in the Knights of Pythias Flatiron building at the corner of Pennsylvania Street and Massachusetts Avenue, where the Regions Building now stands. By 1969, M.J. Schuetz had relocated to the Fidelity Building (now Salesforce Tower), where employees shared cramped quarters as the agency continued to grow. Finally, in 1975, M.J. Schuetz found its current home at Circle Tower Building, located right on Monument Circle.
In January 2012, long-term employees Vickie Wolcott and David Linthicum purchased the agency. At that time, the name was changed to M.J. Schuetz Insurance Services, Inc. Today, M.J. Schuetz employs 25 individuals with over 350 years of combined insurance experience.
Unlike most insurance and bonding agencies, M.J. Schuetz is not a “follow my checklist and nothing more” type of company. They go out of their way to review every option to insure that a contractor is provided with the right bond and insurance program in order to help them get the projects and jobs they want.
Recently, a long-time client of Dave Linthicum, M.J. Schuetz Senior Vice President, Treasurer, and Sales Team Manager, in southern Indiana wanted to bid on a contract but the contract was over their bonding capacity. Through some creative thinking, Linthicum and the agency team were able to secure a bid bond for this contractor, by thinking outside the normal realms of a typical agency.
“I was having lunch with a long-term client down in southern Indiana,” said Linthicum. “He's been a client for over 20 years. The project he wanted to bid was going to be about $5 to $7 million. Unfortunately, his bond program would only allow him to bid projects up to $3 million. So we went to lunch and just in conversation he made a comment that a friendly competitor in the same town called him asking if he was bidding. I start asking questions about the other guy and found that the two competitors were indeed friends and I thought perhaps they might be able to work together to secure the bonding for the whole project.”
Linthicum made a call to the other contractor and asked if they would be willing to put the bid in together. After much discussion and review, they were able to secure an approval for the bid and they were successful in securing a contract for the project.
Knowledge is Power
When it comes to insurance and surety bonds, knowledge is king. Any incorrect statement or misinterpretation of information on a document can spell disaster for a contractor and anyone else involved.
Every aspect of the job is looked over before anything is written. The M.J. Schuetz team will see what the job entails, which companies are on board, the histories of each company including past records of paying bills on time, the character of the contractor bidding for the job, and the written bid itself. No rock is left unturned. Wolcott and her team go through an intense amount of detail in order to make sure that when they go fight the case for the contractor, everything has been done to help ensure that the contractor will not only get the bond, but walk away with greater confidence that the job can be done profitably.
“Anyone can write an insurance policy,” said Linthicum. “However, not everyone can provide an insurance policy that is best suited for the specific types of exposures that each business or company may have. With us, you know that you will be getting what is needed.”
“With us being an ‘independent agency’, we represent many insurance companies and have the benefit of providing an insurance program or surety bond program for our customers from the perspective of multiple companies rather than the perspective of one insurance company,” said Linthicum.
“In addition, we have a long history of working with our customers closely to help guide them in their businesses and to make sure they are able to qualify for the best insurance and surety/bond programs available,” said Linthicum. “When we see a client making a decision that we have seen previously go wrong, we do everything possible to make sure that they don’t make that same mistake. Conversely, we also know what has worked for clients of a similar size or when bidding for a job of similar size. Its this breadth of knowledge and experience that Vickie’s 40 years here, and the firm’s 75 years, allows us to bring to bear on anything we do for our construction clients.”
Wolcott keeps all her records of past and current model contracts and policies in tangible files on her bookshelf in her office. Some of these files date back many years but having the ability to tap into those files and provide perspective onto other contracts gives them a clear-cut advantage when negotiating coverages or navigating through contract terms.
“I keep copies of various construction and non-construction contracts, along with contract language here in my office,” said Wolcott. “This helps me to let our customers know if there are any changes to contract language in regard to insurance requirements, surety bond requirements, and indemnification requirements. I also review specific contract language for customers before a bid.”
“This review helps our customers to make sure they have all of the insurance coverages and limits that are required for the project,” said Wolcott. “This also allows them to adjust their bid to cover the cost of any additional premiums due to additional insurance coverages that need to be put in place to meet contract requirements. In some cases, this information helps our customers decide if they want to proceed with providing a bid or not.”
Being a Helping Hand
Wolcott, celebrating 40 years at the company this year, tends to lead with her heart and is proud of it.
One of her favorite stories is about getting a contractor back on their feet after they were hit hard by the recession. This contractor wasn’t able to get the bonding capacity necessary to begin working again and Wolcott went above and beyond to make sure they would get there.
“The most important part is that you have to show financially that you can support the project that you're trying to start,” said Wolcott. “So getting bonded is very important. I've helped put some résumés together. I've helped put historical information together to help companies get the bonding support they need.”
“In this case, we talked to underwriters about the fact that we had insured this company for many, many years. We had a long history with them, and we knew their operations well. We also knew they always paid their bills. After a lot of work we were able to get this company bonded up to almost $5 million.”
“I hand delivered the bond and it was one of the most fulfilling feelings I’ve had. Other agencies just do checklists and I’m not a checklist type of person. I try to make it more personable. I walk them through understanding what they need to do to get the bonds they need. It’s a lot of information gathering and then its up to me to go to the right underwriter and plead the case.”
The desire to help others and make sure they are well taken care of are principles the firm has practiced for 75 years. Wolcott and her team are continuing a business model that has worked well for the firm through countless business cycles, while helping those in the construction industry get through the good and bad times as well.
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