ExpertBail Agent Jon Handler Talks About the "Business" of Bail BondsWednesday, August 1, 2012
There are many reasons why someone becomes a bail bond agent. They might have a bail bond business that has been in their family for multiple generations. They might have watched and episode of “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and thought that they wanted an exciting career of running through the streets chasing bad guys (only to learn later that the bail industry is far from that reality). Or like ExpertBail Agent, Jon Handler, of SMD & HLS Bail Bonds in Columbus, Ohio, got into the business because he was excited about the “Business” side of things.
Check out the recent interview below with Jon that was published today in The Daily Reporter in Columbus, Ohio. Jon sets the record straight on the reality of the bail bond business, with an emphasis on the “business.” Great job Jon.
Columbus bail agency has goal of being statewide
(click on title for link to original story).
RICK ADAMCZAK | Daily Reporter
Columbus bail bond agent Jon Handler is quick to point out that, no, his job is not what people see on TV shows such as A & E’s former show “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”
While occasionally someone does try to jump bail and he does have to try to hunt them down, most of the time the work is much more mundane.
There’s lots of paperwork, soliciting clients and even marketing and advertising that has to be done.
“We’re suit and tie guys. We’re businessmen. We’re almost like insurance men,” said Handler, who along with partner John Fox is co-owner of SMD/HLS Bonding Company. “It’s not as glamorous as it is on TV.”
The typical day begins with a trip to the Franklin County Courthouse, where he and some or all of his 13 bail agent employees spend the morning searching for potential clients.
The remainder of the day is mostly devoted to paperwork and meeting with clients.
“Our responsibility is to make sure that person shows up back to court,” said Handler. “If they fail to appear, it’s our responsibility to bring them back.”
Bail agents — or bail bondsmen — make their money by taking a cut of the bail a client has to put up for the court.
By state law they must take 10 percent of the bail.
“You’re dealing with people who are volatile — you don’t know them,” said Handler. “Seventy to 80 percent of the time it works out, but 20 percent of the time it doesn’t.”
When it doesn’t, that’s when Handler turns into a bounty hunter, sometimes with assistance from local police.
Bail bondsmen are, through the use of an insurance company, responsible for a client’s bail if they don’t show up for court, so a client avoiding court can be very expensive for a bondsman.
Handler said that social media websites such as Facebook have helped in tracking down people avoiding court.
“A lot of it is investigation work,” said Handler.
When someone is constantly dealing with people facing criminal issues it can lead to interaction with a variety of people, but that’s something that he says he enjoys about the job and is quite a change from his previous career in corporate sales.
“It’s not a sit-behind-the-desk-all-day business. It’s a real cool business. No two days are alike,” said Handler. “As a people person I’m dealing with every kind of person, every day. You have no idea what you’re going to get.”
It’s not just a garden-variety drug dealer or petty thief, either.
Handler says he has a broad marketing and advertising plan blanketing Central Ohio for a good reason.
“We’re marketing to anybody. It’s not just bad people that get arrested. Some people hold high position jobs, but they get in trouble,” he said. “When I’m advertising, I’m advertising to everybody.”
Then there’s the competition, which can be quite heated, Handler said.
“There’s so much competition out there that if you don’t pick it up you’re going to get run over,” he said. “It’s a very, very cutthroat, competitive business.”
He said some bail agents will promise potential clients that they only have to pay 1 or 2 percent up front instead of the full 10 percent. That’s legal — as long as they get their client on a payment plan for the remainder of the balance, which doesn’t always occur.
All bail bondsmen in Ohio must be licensed through the state Department of Insurance and not getting the entire 10 percent could result in losing their license.
“A lot of bail bondsmen don’t like each other and bad mouth each other and that’s what really hurts the business,” said Handler.
Bail agents such as Handler and those working for him are essentially paid by commission, so the more clients one gets, the more money will be made.
“The key to this business is consistency. You have to be at the court every day,” said Handler.
For Handler, another part of the job he enjoys is the business side.
SMD/HLS, which was started in 1960 by his grandfather and has since changed hands to his father and now he and his partner, has recently added offices in Delaware and Circleville with the hopes of expanding into other parts of the state.
“I love taking on the role of growing and expanding the business,” said Handler. “So many parts of Ohio are untouched. Our goal is to cover all of Ohio.”