Avon Insurance Company GoodWorks, Celebrates 20 Years of Helping the Community

Twenty years ago, Michael Metayer started a company in the basement of his Farmington home selling surety bonds – contracts among three parties ensuring the completion of a project in the event of a contractor defaulting.

He had 10 years of on-the-job training working for Cigna, Travelers and Continental Insurance before stepping out on his own.“When opportunities present themselves, you should pay attention,” he said.

After four years working with a midsize national insurance and surety broker, he opened up his own surety-only agency in Avon. There he grew the business until it was representing 18 bonding companies. Metayer Bonding Associates is the largest privately owned surety-bond-only agency in the Northeast. He is its president and chief executive.

Surprising, perhaps, is that while new construction fell during the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, business was booming for Metayer Bonding as loaning banks, concerned about risky ventures, began to require developers to bond the construction managers and general contractors performing the work. Also, with accounts becoming more complex, insurance agents without a strong knowledge of bonding began bringing their contractor bond clients to Metayer to navigate the surety waters and manage their respective bond pro-grams.

During the past two years, Metayer got to know Chad P. Yonker, chairman and principal of GoodWorks Insurance based in Glastonbury. As Metayer learned more about the company Yonker began in 2006, he said it became clear the two companies would work well together. Last December’s merger meant he could now offer his bond clients insurance and GoodWorks could offer bonds to its insurance clients.“We were a perfect fit within his organization,” Metayer said. The two companies were a good fit philanthropically, too.

Metayer Bonding Associates gives to 20 or 30 different organizations annually. The firm also supported the special causes of many of its clients.“There are so many organizations out there in need…[and] we were in a financial position where we could do it,” he said.Making donations was his way of giving back to the community. “I’ve always had a soft heart for giving. It’s a rewarding feeling to be able to give. Giving without anything expected in return, that’s the most fabulous thing,” Metayer said. GoodWorks Insurance, marking its 10th year, gives no less than half its operating profits to local nonprofits throughout the Northeast, supporting local education, health, community development and public safety programs.  

It’s the recipe for success for the firm, which represents more than 40 insurance carriers. “The commitment is built into the company charter,” Yonker said. “It’s a contract we have in the community. It specifically lays out what we are committing to do in terms of making these grants.“We do well because we do good. Deserving local charities get much-needed funds. We reap good-will that helps drive our growth.”

GoodWorks offers all types of personal and commercial insurance, including home, auto, business, life, health and disability plus employee benefits and retirement plans. The firm also has Connecticut offices in Columbia and New Milford as well as Massachusetts offices in Great Barrington and Worcester. Its plans call for expansion, including acquisitions.

“We have dramatically expanded the company through internal growth as well as through multiple acquisitions. It’s been great. The message we have tends to resonate with particular groups of people who care about their community and the nonprofits that serve the community,” said Yonker, who splits his time between Santa Barbara, California and Litchfield.

“We provide an avenue for people to do that, while not having the contributions come out of their own pocket. We make contributions, but that comes from [the clients’] willingness to do business with us.” Grants to the nonprofits vary in amount but usually are in the $1,000 to $20,000 range.Recent donations have included Operation Fuel in Avon, FOCUS Center for Autism in Canton, Granby Education Foundation and the Farmington Valley YMCA. GoodWorks Insurance is also creating innovative special funds for some of its key program sponsors. These funds will grow over time and allow sponsoring organizations to direct grants to local charities their members care about.

In July, GoodWorks was named a general partner of reSET, a Hartford-based nonprofit whose mission is to advance the social enterprise sector in New England. It will run work-shops on insurance and risk management. It also gave a $5,000 grant to reSET, which will go toward reSET’s operations, enabling it to apply for matching funds from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

Part of the reason GoodWorks can give so much to charity is because Yonker takes no compensation from the company. “That increases the profit pool available for giving, and it keeps us true to our vision of splitting the profits evenly between the community and our agency’s ownership,” he said.

In 2006, the previous management opened two start-up offices and adopted the charity-first strategy, creating GoodWorks Insurance. Other agencies were purchased over the next five years.“We made the investment in GoodWorks Insurance in 2008. We were drawn to their socially responsible business model. It was beyond socially responsible. It was more socially engaged. It fit perfectly where I wanted to go,” Yonker said.

The charity strategy worked, but despite strong growth, by 2011, the firm was running into financial trouble, because “the previous management overpaid for the agencies they purchased,” he said. A former hedge-fund manager, he then became the majority owner, recapitalized the firm and began to turn it around.

Yonker said that as the company grows, its donations grow. “Now that we’re profitable and growing at a fast rate, we’re doing more and more each year.”He noted that every client helps the company fulfill its mission.“From the personal lines customer who has a house and a car, right up to the larger businesses we serve that employ thousands of people and operate at multinational levels across the globe. They all count; they all count toward making a difference in the communities we serve,” he said.

Metayer said, “It’s been a great experience joining with a firm that strongly resembles our philosophy towards clients and giving back to the community. The entire organization remains poised for strong growth in both insurance and surety – growth that local communities will benefit from, too, with proactive donations.”

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