Josh Cotner is the owner of The Contractors Choice Agency, an insurance agency in Phoenix, Arizona that specializes in helping roofing contractors protect their business.
A byproduct of a military family, Cotner was born at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa in 1982, but before Cotner could walk the family moved to Sierra Vista in southern Arizona.
Trading the humidity of Florida for the dry heat that is common throughout the state of Arizona was of no consequence to Cotner, who took no issue with the high temps afforded by The Copper State.
“The heat wasn’t anything that we couldn’t handle,” says Cotner, who as a teenager was drawn to scaling boulders and anything else that stretched into the sky.
“I loved rock climbing, and I loved reading about rock climbing. I would read about mountaineering, Everest, and K2.”
When Cotner wasn’t reaching new heights, both literally and figuratively, he was behind a computer, amassing skills and learning about what resided outside the 45,000-person city of Sierra Vista.
“I was also into building websites with HTML. I grew up in the middle of nowhere, so the Internet was a portal to a different world,” he says.
After graduating high school, Cotner enrolled at Arizona State University, where he earned a degree in finance that ideally would grant him entrance into the frenetic universe of Wall Street.
But before Cotner could leave Arizona, the United States was rocked by the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and as a result, Cotner ended up reevaluating his professional prospects.
“I wanted to work in financial services and investments. I had a bunch of different job opportunities in finance, but I ended up in insurance,” he says, yet the specific events that led to Cotner becoming an insurance agent are quite noteworthy.
That’s because after college, while debating his future, Cotner spent time installing chimneys (yes, chimneys are a thing in Arizona).
As a skilled tradesman, Cotner was earning upwards of $2,500 per week installing chimneys, but one day the good times were put on hiatus when he fell through a skylight while on a job.
“I drove myself to the hospital,” Cotner recalls.
“The whole time my leg was bleeding really bad, and my knee had a really bad cut underneath my kneecap, almost to the point where my kneecap was cut off.”
Fortunately, doctors said that Cotner’s injuries wouldn’t impact his long-term health, but suddenly he couldn’t work, which meant he had to file a claim with his insurance company to cover for his lost wages.
“After falling through the roof, I had a really bad claim, and that’s when I learned about lawsuits and insurance coverage,” Cotner mentions, but the education he was about to receive was far from enjoyable.
“When I was going through my claim I was sitting there in court, and I noticed a guy who was worried about paying out $20,000 on my claim, and when I had to fight for what I was owed, that enraged me, so I made a commitment that I was never going to let that happen to anyone else.”
Cotner combated that frustrating experience he went through by becoming an insurance agent, in turn harnessing his communication skills and workhorse mentality in a way that now allows him to help clients avoid the same pitfalls he once endured.
Having owned and operated The Contractor’s Choice Agency in Phoenix since 2014, Cotner has made a living by selling insurance packages to roofing contractors across the United States.
A fluent Spanish speaker, Cotner is also able to leverage his language skills to tap into roofing markets that many other insurance agents don’t even bother exploring.
And while Cotner has thrived helping roofing contractors of all demographics secure the coverage their businesses need, there are some who wish Cotner would stop going the extra mile for his clients.
“I get served lawsuits on a daily basis. I have process servers show up at my house with regularity, but that’s normal. Just another day in the insurance business,” Cotner insists.
“The longer I stay in business, and the more policies I write, the more lawsuits I deal with.”
If dealing with litigation and threatening letters sounds daunting, that’s because it is, but Cotner has evolved to seamlessly handle distractions, which is why roofing contractors have no issue bringing their insurance-related problems to his attention.
“As an insurance agent, I’m selling professional advice and service, and a lot of that is getting in front of things so that people not only have coverage, but then they also know what kind of coverage they have,” he explains.
His clientele ranges from the local Amish community who need help translating insurance legalese, to $50 million roofing companies who are looking for the go-ahead on their next big commercial project.
Yet, no matter the revenue of the client, Cotner’s phone is always turned on, ready to provide key information at a moment’s notice.
“People rely on me for business advice and to have their back if something goes awry, or if someone tries to hustle them,” he says.
Of course, having a rolodex as deep as the Grand Canyon means there is rarely a dull moment in Cotner’s day, but despite being strapped for time, Cotner still finds ways to do more, which is why in addition to insuring roofing contractors, Cotner and his team also write policies for homeowners.
In the same way he tries to provide roofers with invaluable advice, Cotner also does what he can to make sure homeowners are informed before they even begin working with a contractor.
For example, Cotner often stresses to homeowners the importance of buying a performance bond, which is a legal document that holds contractors accountable for completing the scope of work on a home in a timely manner.
Insurance bonds typically cost around 3.5% of the total bid, but because homeowners are already paying for work to be completed on their home, they’re reticent about incurring further expenditures.
Cotner understands homeowners’ reluctance, but a performance bond ultimately could save a homeowner thousands of dollars if the contractor they selected fails to uphold their end of the contract.
“With a performance bond, you have a guarantee that a contractor isn’t going to run off with your money,” Cotner says.
For context, Cotner recently consulted with a client who found herself in a predicament where having a performance bond would have saved her unnecessary stress.
“This particular individual was working with a big-name company, and it took them a year and a half to install kitchen cabinets. That was unbelievable,” Cotner shares.
“If she had purchased a performance bond, that work likely would have been done within 90 days, or else that contractor would have received daily fines.”
Another way that Cotner strives to differentiate himself from his competition is that he has amassed a vast network of attorneys who are at his clients’ disposal, should they need information that isn’t readily available.
“My attorney network is always available to my customers. Anytime there’s an issue, they have access to unlimited legal advice,” says Cotner, adding:
“My clients can get someone on the phone within minutes who can help them answer a question about a lien, collections, a lawsuit, or a cease and desist. Whatever they need, I have some pit bulls on my team.”
While homeowners and roofing contractors alike come to Cotner for his insurance acumen, ultimately, they stay because of his tireless devotion to making sure that someone is looking out for them.
“When it comes to their insurance, my clients only want to deal with one person, which is why everyone knows that if they have a question, they don’t have to call six different people. They just call me,” Cotner says.
“I work very diligently to understand my clients so that I can help them get what they deserve.” QS
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