Gut instinct, that little voice, your heart of hearts — call it what you want. Just don’t ignore it. 

In the spring of 2012, a mayday distress call went out in the Gulf of Maine off of Portland. An 81-foot steel vessel was flooding and going down. Nobody was lost or injured but the vessel sustained over $200,000 in damages plus salvage costs.

The vessel was a former client of mine. A few years back my gut had told me to ask my insurer to not renew the policy. I turned away a good bit of commission income, but I could not ignore the feeling that this was the right way to go.

My business is to not only make money for my agency and me, but also to allow the insurance companies I represent to make a profit. Sending substandard clients their way does nothing for their bottom line and doesn’t help my credibility.

Another time I presented an insurance package to a successful shipyard that had a nice newbuild backlog. While visiting their facility, my little voice started shouting about fire safety issues in their main fabrication plant. I mentioned this and was told in no uncertain terms by management that there was no need for concern. Six months later the place was leveled by fire.

The clean up and repair cost was several million dollars. I am glad I had withdrawn my proposal.

In another case, a young and growing boatbuilding company was setting the world on fire with new construction methods and fancy advertising. I was asked to review all of their current insurance coverage and to present a proposal. 

I looked at their entire operation — location, fire protection, hiring practices, materials supply chain — including their financial information. After a thorough review my instinct was that I was looking at a shooting star that would burn out very quickly. I backed away. Hard times came, a lot of their work was returned, and they were gone. They had simply bit off more than they could chew.

Sure, there are times when my gut doesn’t speak up and I wish it had, but when it does, I listen. 

A collection of stories from guest authors.