For the past year, Barlocker Insurance Services has been the exclusive endorsed provider for the California Autobody Association (CAA). In other words, CAA has done the homework for member shop owners in selecting an endorsed insurance partner.
In partnering with CAA, Barlocker brings a complete package of services to CAA members. Along with a competitive price point for Workers' Compensation insurance, Barlocker offers safety/loss control, injury/illness prevention plans, contractual risk transfer assistance, and employee handbook development guides - all available at no charge to clients.
Barlocker has been in business for 39 years. The company is licensed in all fifty states, concentrating primarily in Califor-nia. It is currently the 75th largest insurance broker in the nation. Eight offices located in Salinas, Merced, Laguna Hills, Ventura, San Jose, Fresno, Woodland Hills and Carlsbad each handle the CAA chapters in the area in which they are located - offering a breadth of coverage other organizations cannot provide. Smaller companies simply do not have the resources to offer the partnership and expertise that Barlocker does.
Each CAA chapter has an assigned Barlocker representative who speaks at chapter meetings about insurance or industry-related topics, value-added products offered by the company, as well as loss control and safety resources that members can tap into without reinventing the wheel.
For instance, when Senate Bill 198 became law in the 1990s, it required that all employers have an injury, illness and safety plan for all employees. Barlocker developed documents that detailed hazards that particularly occur in body shops. The company created customized, yet off-the- shelf plans that could become corporate policy with regard to injury, loss control and safety, allowing shop owners to be in full compliance with the law.
Focus on auto service groups
Executive Vice President Fred Stafford noted that the company has always focused on auto service groups - associations or franchisee auto associations such as Jiffy Lube, Midas and MAACO. "We put together plans that bring meaningful programs to our clients." Stafford has been with Barlocker for 23 years, watching the company grow from a mere twelve employees to over 200 that currently are part of Barlocker today.
Stafford further explained that "becoming a client of Barlocker is a more meaningful relationship than simply brokering insurance. We work on behalf of the client, not just the insurance company. For example, the company offers assistance in Workers' Compensation claims and garage keepers liability. We work as an advocate. Having technical expertise in- house gives us a leg up on the competition. Smaller companies cannot afford the expense of giving away all these extra services. There are 2,800 individual auto-related risks, 2,000 of which are in California. We have expertise in all the auto service areas."
And Stafford is no average "Fred." He worked with Travelers as an underwriter after graduating Phi Beta Kappa in statistics and sociology from Berkeley. Twenty-three years ago, his first project was crunching numbers on an auto body program in California as an actuary. Working with the auto body business has come naturally to him ever since.
Working alongside Stafford is Barlocker vice president Jack Starke. Starke has been in the insurance business for over twenty years, gaining insight on the claims side as an adjuster. With his background, understanding and long-term relationships, Starke has become an advocate for the auto body industry. With over 1,600 automotive industry clients, he understands how body shops work and the challenges they face.
Barlocker and CAA
Because the Workers' Compensation marketplace is constantly changing, CAA went comparison shopping to see if they could offer an even better Workers' Compensation package to its membership. Barlocker prevailed with competitive cost for insurance, the number of agents available to members and the value-added resources offered at no extra charge. This is a closed program that individuals cannot access unless they belong to CAA.
CAA Executive Director David McClune stated that the partnership and respect between CAA and Barlocker is mutual. CAA supports Barlocker with its endorsement of the company as the exclusive provider for the association. In return, Barlocker's programs and resources attract industry professionals who are interested in this kind of benefit to become CAA members.
Barlocker is a committed business partner for the long-run and an advocate for CAA. "We hope that we put the association's needs ahead of our own," stated Stafford. "We have a 99% retention rate of our client base. We have serviced MAACO for over 25 years, Jiffy Lube for 10 years and AAMCO and Midas for the past five years.
"We are given ten to fifteen opportunities to speak with associations about becoming their endorsed agents. Believe it or not, we turn down many of them as they don't have the demographics in place to obtain the profit margin we need. CAA is a great fit for us. Whereas Barlocker is proud to be the endorsed provider for CAA, partnering with Barlocker is a feather in the cap of the association as well."
Loyalty to CAA and its vendor partners brought several Fix Auto shops into the fold, according to Ron Guilliams, vice president of quality assurance and first vice president of CAA. He was instrumental in selecting Barlocker for CAA.
"I felt it was my obligation to review the proposal and make a bid on the insurance package. Six of our stores ended up switching over to Barlocker.
"Comparison shopping does require some extra effort. For us, it was very worthwhile. Barlocker provided the same or better coverage at significantly reduced rates. We saved enough money at the six stores to actually pay the salary for an estimator for a year."
Referring to CAA's unanimous decision to endorse Barlocker, Guilliams continued: "One of the factors influencing CAA's decision was the company's much larger sales force. Barlocker is committed to helping the association to grow with the products they offer. This group insurance is only available as a benefit of membership. We felt that Barlocker would have more horsepower to get the word out about CAA and help our membership grow.
"In fact, a shop owner can realize enough in premium savings to offset the CAA membership fee and further benefit from the informational seminars offered on ways to avoid accidents and promote safety and well-being at the shop level. Workplace safety is a win-win situation for everyone."
Barlocker was introduced to CAA by Dave Mello, owner of Anderson-Behel Body Shop. Ken Gray, the company's controller, actually works with the Bar-locker Insurance Services staff on a regular basis.
Gray described his company's experience with Barlocker. "They have a Workers' Compensation expert in their office who can promptly answer any questions on Workers' Comp issues. Their pricing structure is very competitive and there are people in the office who can help us cut through red tape if we need to. They help us solve complicated problems and expedite the process."
A perfect fit
Stafford and Starke are truly dedicated professionals who love the business they are in and the people they work for and with. The relationship they have with their customers is their primary focus.
Starke says of Stafford, "He is one of the few people you can reach 24/7."
And Stafford returns the compliment, calling Starke the salt of the earth. "Everybody loves Jack."
Summing up, Stafford says: "We are small enough to care and big enough to help. Most large competitors are not interested in this size target market, and smaller competitors simply do not have the extensive resources Barlocker has to offer."