A Policy of Protection
Insurance provider Jacoby & Associates Agency offers solutions for success
The year 2009 was a big one for Gerald Jacoby, Owner and Principal of Jacoby & Associates Agency of Pittsburgh.
It was the year that the captive commercial-insurance provider for which he was writing policies, American Hardware Mutual Insurance Company, transitioned over from an employed-agent business model to independent agent. The company gave Jacoby its book of business for the entire state of Pennsylvania—about a million dollars’ worth of business—and helped him start his own agency.
Jacoby knows what it’s like to have someone in your corner, rooting for you.
Today, the firm has five employees, all intent on delivering insurance coverage tailored to construction-related companies and others. Jacoby gets special satisfaction in helping start-up contractors get their businesses off the ground. He says it gives him a unique role in support of other companies that start out small before blossoming, too.
“They can find it difficult to get coverage when they start their businesses,” he says. “But we have helped many contractors save 25% or more on this expense.” He mentions roofers, painters, carpenters, plumbers and electricians as start-up clients the agency has served, with customized, affordable insurance for their specific needs.
“I like start-ups because they develop into other businesses,” he says, adding that Jacoby & Associates Agency is there to provide coverage throughout every transition and in every situation.
Through the years, Jacoby & Associates Agency has gone on to build partnerships, a wide range of offerings, a solid client base and a strong reputation—and even won a Pacesetter Award for customer service and growth from The Motorists Insurance Group along the way.
Jacoby shares that his agency offers policies from over 40 different insurance companies, allowing clients objective solutions that truly represent the best route for them and their companies. This way, in addition to offering a broad array of policies, customers don’t have to change insurance agencies as their needs change, either, he adds.
Suggested coverage packages are tailored, customized and offered only after agents with decades of industry experience carefully consider each client’s needs.
Though the agency specializes in commercial business insurance, it’s a one-stop shop for various kinds of coverage. So, a construction client that also needs home, life, auto, health, renters or boat insurance is still in the right place, Jacoby says. Quotes are free and clients who request them are under no obligation to sign up.
Understanding how different policies work in accomplishing clients’ goals is one of the many aspects that sets Jacoby & Associates Agency apart from its competitors. Its agents—not bound by just one insurance provider—are skilled at discerning a client’s needs, creating policy packages to best protect them, and doing so in a way that is affordable.
This is the case even when the account is complicated.
For example, property investors embarking on complete renovations are a common type of client, Jacoby says. The type of coverage required is detailed and nuanced, calling for experienced insurance experts in case something should go wrong at the work site or during any other phase of the job.
Renovation projects go through many stages, and the insurance coverage on such jobs needs to evolve right along with them. From neighborhood children playing in empty structures, to equipment theft, to wind damage—liability is present.
Jacoby says that insurance products for a home flipper can include builder’s risk insurance in case of fire or vandalism, for example. A vacant-home policy will likely be needed for a time to protect the empty structure and its contents. And either of these may need extensions if there are building delays.
“We put a dollar amount on the home,” Jacoby says. “Once completed, we convert it into a regular landlord policy. In this region, there is a lot of that kind of property investment. There are a lot of 100-year-old homes that people are buying and fixing up, usually down-to-the-stud remodels, where they are getting rid of old plaster and electrical.”
These hybrid-type policies need constant updating, experienced insurance agents who remain engaged in the process, and knowledge of potential risk, says Jacoby. If a building should collapse for some reason while under construction, there are policies to cover that.
Architects and engineers need more professional liability coverage in case something goes wrong with a structure they’ve planned out. Jacoby explains the actual design of homes and commercial buildings carries much more liability.
Information is Power
Whether it’s via a detailed quote with specialty coverage, a review of an existing policy or a consultation with a new business owner, part of Jacoby’s role is educating clients. It’s a role he’s happy to fulfill.
One area where he often advises business owners is on the matter of workers’ compensation. He works to educate company owners who believe that putting employees in the 1099 category instead of filing W-2 forms with the IRS will protect them from having to pay for workers’ compensation insurance.
“They are still responsible for injuries,” Jacoby says. It’s a misconception he and his team work to clarify on a constant basis. “Legally, the employee who is injured can sue the contractor for bodily injury and missed work even as a 1099 subcontractor. Then the state can come down on them,” especially if the employee is working only for that particular company without a certificate of insurance as evidence of workers’ compensation in place. Construction companies are held back from bidding on bigger jobs anyway, without workers’ compensation insurance, Jacoby notes, which limits their growth.
The advent of drones is another area where Jacoby & Associates Agency has worked to remain up-to-date for its clients. Used for aerial surveys of a site to collect data on progress and troubleshooting, drones are a great way for builders to catch potential problems earlier—but come with challenges in terms of liability. Mr. Jacoby works to ensure all the facts are on the table for clients.
Considered aircraft, drones are helpful for professional painters looking to give more accurate estimates on the exterior of a building. Roofers or gutter-replacement crews can get measurements they need without going on roofs. But drones come with privacy issues, Jacoby cautions, as they can see into a neighbor’s property. They can also cause damage to homes or cars. He says these liabilities and others require a knowledgeable insurance expert to recommend the best kind of coverage.
Key man life insurance—or life insurance on a key member of a company to ensure the company can continue if that person should unexpectedly die—is another type of policy Jacoby recommends.
“In the case of a specialty plumber, for example, it could take years to replace that person,” with the company at a disadvantage in the meantime, he explains. Specialty attorneys, engineers and architects would be other examples, he says. The payout on a key man life insurance policy could help pay for training or otherwise keep the business afloat.
Jacoby & Associates Agency welcomes construction-type clients, both big and small, and also those just starting their own businesses as well as those that have been around for years. Agency staffers are happy to consult with the prospective client at the agency office, at a client’s work site or over the phone. “We can find the best policy at the best premium for the client,” Jacoby affirms.