So, I'm thinking of setting up in business as a floor fitter. I have three years experience. I've worked under someone and I've worked by myself.

I need quotes for public liability, employers' liability and cover for loss of and damage to my tools.

I choose Mainstay, a branch of a south coast broker chain, from the Yellow Pages. I've been sent to check these guys out. Just how good are they? Are they competitive, keen, with good presentation? Do they have firm handshakes, a water cooler and one of those big plastic looking plants in the corner that no one can remember the name of.

After phoning for an appointment, I visit the office. I press the buzzer. A quick "Hello" and I'm in. Someone very warm and smiley comes to greet me. "You rang earlier," says the smiley woman. Good recollection. She seats me on a chair against the wall. Barely enough time to settle and there's a hand being thrust at me. "Hello, I'm Ashley Rootes". I sit and unzip spread out some random papers from my A4 wallet. I note that there has been no mention of GISC or company standing.

"What can I do you for?" says Rootes. I tell him a bit about my company. He tells me a bit about public liability, which is usually up to a limit of £2m. And employers' liability up to a limit of about £10m.

He asks: "Do you employ anyone?"

I reply: "Not at the moment, but a young assistant will be starting soon."

He says: "Tool cover, up to about 2k?"

"That's about right."

"When are you looking to start your business?"

"12th January."

"Do you work in unusual places, industrial work sites etc?"

"Not really, just the usual domestic and the odd restaurant"

"I'll ring you in one week with quotes for you with one employee and you with three."

"Sounds good."

We have a bit of a chat about the ins and outs of setting up a business. "Lot of work around in wooden floors. Everyone's having them," I hazard, trying to drum up a little more work.

"Any questions?" he asks.

"Oh yes, what's your commission rate?"

"15% and up to 25% for bigger policies," he says without batting an eyelid.

He shakes my hand and says goodbye. I snatch a glance at my watch. Only eight minutes. That can't be right. Surely there's something vital we needed to discuss. Oh well, at least it wasn't boring and he did seem rather courteous. It was only on the way home when I remembered that we hadn't discussed a vehicle. Surely he should have asked me. Never mind, perhaps he'll ring.

...Well he didn't. I rang him after five days of waiting. "Mr Rootes is away today, said the receptionist" I give her the details of the van I'm thinking of buying. We talk make, model, engine size, age, and mileage. That's it. She tells me she'll pass the info on and I should hear back later today or by tomorrow.

Two days roll by and I decide to ring Rootes on the day I'm due to hear back from him. "Have you got my letter?" asks Ashley. "I put it in the post yesterday".

"Not yet," I say, as I proceed to the subject of van insurance. "Oh yes, a colleague of mine should have got back to you," says Rootes. No apology.

For a long wheelbase 2L Ford Transit,W reg, with 72,000 miles and a price tag of £7,000 the premium would be £985 per annum.

"Will it be parked on the road?"


"Is it just yourself driving?"


"Does it have a demobiliser?"


"An alarm?"


"I've got you down as about 36 years of age, is that right?"

I tell him that I'm actually 40. He tells me the premium would be £985.00. But adds that he'll see if he can bring it down considering my real age and get back to me.

Next day, a letter arrives from Mainstay. It reads:

Further to our discussion last week concerning your proposed new business venture, we have obtained the following quotes on your behalf from a leading insurer. No mention of name. Interesting. What if it had come from an insurer I already held a quote for? And what about the brand, I may have a had bad experiences with a previous insurer - I want to know who it is.

Based on myself and one other employee the cover for liabilities and tools cover came in at £399. And for myself and three employees - £837.90.

Two days later, I ring again to chase up possible improvement on Ford Transit cover.

"Yes, I'm happy to say I can get that premium down to £950.02," says Rootes.

Well it's a saving of £34.98.

In summary Mainstay's quotes were averagely competitive. Rootes was pleasant and perfunctory. And his tone was expectant but not pushy.

With a little extra effort Mainstay would seem a fairly safe bet to me.