Recently, a client bid on one of the company’s largest contracts, a public project, with a firm bid time.
The bid bond was approved with very little wiggle room for re-approval at a higher amount. If awarded, the contract would be the contractor’s largest single project. It also was over their aggregate bonding program level at the time of the bid.
My client called about 45 minutes before bid time. The job was coming in about 25% over the owner’s budget. That was substantially over the 10% level that bonding companies typically allow for higher bids without calling for reapproval.
I called the underwriter who handles this account at a well known national surety. We discussed several options that the bonding company would consider and that the contractor might want to accept. After a conference call, all agreed approval was possible, IF the bid amount went down from 25% over the original estimate.
At six minutes before the bid was due, we got another call from our client. The number was down to a little more than 10% over the estimate. There was another one minute conference call. The bid was approved at that amount, with the conditions discussed earlier, at four minutes until bid time.
Turns out, our client didn’t have the right number, but that’s not the point of the story.
By the way, did I mention that the underwriter was on vacation that day, with out-of-town family members visiting? This underwriter understands the cost, time and effort it takes to get work these days.
He didn’t have to answer that phone that day. We would have tried to talk to someone else in his office but he knows the contractor better than anyone else. That's team spirit, which helps a LOT of people in our industry get work.
Great opportunities are very hard to find in this market. When a bid is prepared, many people have an interest in its success. The subs, suppliers, owner's personnel and the contractor all have a high stake in each bid.
Bond underwriters who are willing to take time to know their clients, and contractors willing to spend time building the relationship with their surety, help make a lot of people successful.
It’s useful to remember that the two or three scraps of paper we provide for a bid bond are a critical element of any procurement process. A lot of people get work, or don’t, depending on how the bonding team and contractor work together.
This example doesn’t help much to solve contractors’ sleepless nights. Nobody involved in this one had time to sleep on it and then make the decision.
The story should cause sleepless nights for some contractors. Those who need anything crucial to their company’s success need a strong, long term relationship with the key players who will make decisions that affect the contractor’s business.
If you think of areas where you don’t have those relationships, you might want to stay awake for a few nights and figure out how you can fix it!