Bail Bond Confessions Blog

PBUS Convention

July 23, 2009
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So I attended the PBUS convention, but only for one day.  I was torn between attending the whole event or only the one day.  I decided to save money and go the one day, but was disappointed when I showed up bright and early only to find out that by choosing to attend the one day and not the whole convention, I was locked out of attending the morning events.  I arrived at 8am and effectively had nothing to do until 2:45pm when I could attend a seminar on collections.

I puttered in and out of the exhibition room.  I’m not sure what I was expecting, but there were less than a dozen exhibitors there.  It was nice to talk to 3 different software vendors and it helped me decide which software I want to use, but c’mon…I paid $100 for this privilege?  I also met a great guy, James Peeler of American Spirit Processing, who sold me on his company for my credit card processing needs.

Since I was new, I didn’t have anyone to eat lunch with, so I asked a bellhop to direct me to a nearby restaurant for good food.  It wasn’t all that great and I really hate eating alone.  I made my way back to the hotel slowly and had plenty of time to spare to make it into the Collections seminar.  The seminar started out OK, but after about 20 minutes, the speaker turned it into a commercial for his company.

In the seminar, I zoned out and looked around me.  Overwhelmingly, the population in the room could be described as older white male.  As in 50 yrs+ older.  It just served to reinforce my decision to enter this business.  a) I’m young and these guys are going to start retiring and dying off in the next 5 years.  Over the next 20 years, I should be able to absorb a great amount of market share, b) This is a job that can’t be outsourced overseas, c) I see strong parallels between the casino business in Vegas over the past 50 years and the bail bonds business in America over the past 50 years.  I think there is a lot of good opportunity here and many younger folks are avoiding it and going into IT/Legal/Medical jobs.

-bbc

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Things to do and things done

July 18, 2009
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I spent a good portion of yesterday picking up my 1st run of business cards and doing research in the law library at our local university.  I found a book that attorneys pay to be in that lists their information.  It’s like Who’s Who of attorneys and it is organized by state/city!  This was an awesome find for me and I was able to compile a list of about two dozen attorneys and build brief profiles of each of them.  I’m going to take this information and use it for sales leads.

At the same time, however, I decided to hold off on the campaign until I have professional stationary, thank you cards, letterhead, etc printed up.  If I’m going to differentiate myself on the basis of professionalism, it doesn’t make sense to have the hodge-podge off-the-shelf stuff.  So right now I’m targeting the first week of November as the start of my campaign.  That will give me time to ease into the business and learn my way around the paperwork and courthouses.

I’m looking forward to the PBUS convention so I can check out various software packages and credit card processors.  I need to have a decent database management system and the ability to accept credit cards, right from the start.

-bbc


Paperwork

July 14, 2009
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I’ve got a contract to sign, applications to fill out, and receipts to file.  It seems like the paperwork is never ending and I haven’t even written a bond yet.  They Surety company seems very eager to bring me on, so at least that is reassuring. I went to my local city HQ and started the process of applying for a business license.  Unfortunately, zoning seems to have a problem with me working from my home.  There issue is that traditionally bail bonds agencies generate levels of traffic above what is normal for residential areas.  I wrote them a letter explaining how this will be a virtual office and how I have absolutely no intention of bringing clients into my home.  I pointed out that my home is only big enough for my family, not my family and additional employees and that if I grew the business, I would be forced to seek out commercial office space.  I hope to hear a positive response in a few days.

Hopefully I can knock the majority of this paperwork out in the next day or two and take a break before attending the PBUS convention in Savannah next week.  After that, it is time to tie up some loose ends and then I am taking a 2 week vacation (before I even open my doors) and when I return, it is game ON!

-bbc


Party like its 1999

July 12, 2009
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I’ve got a land line telephone installation on its way, an old-style cordless phone to use on that line, a bunch of blank thank you cards, a PO Box, and I’m working on getting an 800 number and having business cards printed off.

I feel so 20th Century right now.

-bbc


Day 2 (last day) of Training

July 2, 2009
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Wow…my head is spinning from all the information jammed in there.  I will have no trouble passing the exam(s), but there is just so much information on good or common practices that has me all tizzied up.  Then I find myself stressing about stuff that I don’t even know about, but figure I will need to know!

Went to court today and it was a complete clusterfuck.  The bond agent hadn’t clocked his license in properly and so he was instructed to leave the Federal courthouse and go to the County courthouse and clock in his license before returning to the Federal courthouse to clock in his license so he could write the bond.  “Clocking In” is basically validating your state licenses and authority to write bail with the Clerk of Court and needs to be performed once a year.

So the instructor sent us out to wait in the parking lot.  Only there wasn’t any shade, so we went down the street and hung out.  20-25 minutes later, he comes driving up and tells us that he already wrote the bond and was on his way to the County courthouse.  After he sent us out, he went to the judge and explained the situation and told him that there would be a delay. The judge told him to just go ahead and do the bond and then take care of the paperwork.  He went out to find us, but we were pretty far from the courthouse and couldn’t hear him.  So he wrote the bond and then found us.

So after our aborted trip to Court, we went back to the classroom and “studied” while we waited for him to return from the courthouse.  I guess he stopped for lunch, because when he got back, we hit the books from 11am-2:30pm and then he wrapped up the class.  We hadn’t eaten, but he offered to stick around for Q&A, so me and one other guy stayed until 5:30pm and picked his brain.

He has a pretty good racket going with teaching the instructional course.  He offered both of us the deal of letting us sub under him at 4.5% on Surety and 3% on non-Surety bonds. I’m going to have to crunch some numbers and see if it makes sense or not.  On the one hand, it seems pretty steep, but I haven’t fully discussed it with the Surety Insurance company yet and on the other hand, it gets me access to his wealth of experience, expertise, and advice.  I’ll have to put a mental price on what I figure that is worth before I make my decision.

-bbc


Day 1 of Training

July 1, 2009
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In my state, you are required by law to complete 20 hours of classroom training before you are allowed to take a 60 question test to become a bail bondsman.  I’m not really clear on the math seeing as how Day 1 lasted from 8:30am-5:30pm with 1hr lunch and probably 30 minutes for breaks and the last day (Day 2), is scheduled from roughly 8am-4pm with a lunch break.

Anyway, there are only 4 instructors in the state licensed to teach the class.  My instructor has been in the business for 25 years and as near as I can tell is likely a multi-millionaire.  The dude carried two cell phones and took so many phone calls during class that I lost count.  But on almost all of the calls, he put the phone into speaker mode so we could hear.  I found the majority of the calls to be quite illuminating to say the least.

There were 5 or perhaps 6 participants in my class today, depending on how you look at it.  One guy showed up late and the instructor clearly asked him if he was there for the 2 day class and went through what this means with the guy.  The guy insisted he was in the right place.  At 4pm, he discovered that he was not in the right class and had signed up for an 8 hour/1 day course for a different test.  By the time he figured it out, that other class had finished and I guess he was SOL.  The kicker?  This dude has been a practicing bondsman for 5 years!

The rest of the class broke down like this:

  • Woman who has been assisting her brother for years in his bail bonds business.  The brother has recently been subject to some Federal charges for something.  The woman has a regular day job in the Education sector.
  • Young guy who used to be a jail guard, but isn’t doing that any longer.   But his daddy is the #2 guy at the jail. Apparently, he is hooked up with some Mexicans and plans to expand into bounty hunting for them.
  • Older guy who works as a repo guy and is looking to expand into human repos (i.e. bounty hunting).
  • Guy in his 30’s, it, clean cut, ex-military.  Owns his own business, but is getting pushed out by illegal workers who can undercut his services by 70%.  Looking to change careers and figured with bail bonds, his military training will come in handy.
  • Me.

I wore jeans, a nice white button down shirt, and sport coat.  I was the best dressed guy there, and it worked out for me.  I explained to the instructor that I am looking for a mentor figure to employee me short-term (up to a year) while I learn the business.  After that, I told him I wanted to open up my own firm.   The instructor told me he would be willing to take me on. Later, I discovered that I would be like bail bondsman #120 working under him.  The guy has quite an empire.   Hmm…no wonder he is only “semi-retired” and still teaches the classes!

He also put me and the ex-military guy (I think he gets the same offer) in touch with local Surety company.  The company representative was in town and came by for a visit.  We talked a while and he told me that I could expect to make up to $100,000/yr if I listen to them and avoid dumbass mistakes.

What was interesting to me is that a month ago, when I was writing my business plan, I had a lengthy e-mail conversation with the president of the Surety company (fairly small operation).  That guy refused to answer any of my questions until I was licensed, yet here is this other guy who is practically kissing my ass and answering every question I had!  Something to be weary of, to be sure.  On the other hand, there is no law requiring me to work with only a single Surety company, so I can (and should) sign up with a couple of different ones.  In any case, the guy invited me down to his HQ (approx 2 hr. drive) next week to spend the day learning about them and what they have to offer.

The training class was at times mind-numbing boring as the instructor just read the text on the page…for roughly 35 of the 52 pages we covered today.  But then at other times, he would take a call or tell us a story based on his experiences and everyone would perk up.  We lucked out in that tomorrow he has to be in Federal court at 10am to write a $50k bond (took him 3 weeks to put it together) and he is going to take us with him so we get a “hands-on” experience!

-bbc


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