Have you ever thought of starting a scratch insurance agency? Maybe you are on the edge of doing something, but fearful of taking the leap. Maybe you are an established agency, but could be invigorated by new ideas.
Here’s the story of someone who did it.
Matthew Carroll, began working in the insurance industry 6 years ago as a producer inside an Independent Agency. During that time, he learned a lot about lead generation and structuring follow ups for sales success. After a couple years, a State Farm agency reached out to him to become a producer inside an agency. He jumped at the chance, because it came with the hope of actually owning his own agency one day.
His tenure there was successful, but did not lead him to ownership as quickly as he imagined. So after 3 years of grinding away at production, Matthew took the leap and opened his own shop.
Granted this was no overnight leap in the dark. In fact, we spoke at least 6months before he pulled the trigger. He gathered all the necessary information he needed to make good decisions. He put together one of the best business plans that I had ever seen. Production targets were in place, as well as the marketing activities needed to get there. Then in Jan of 2017, he launched Kentucky Bred Insurance.
Matt came storming out of the gate, and was writing business and following his marketing plan from day one.
After 9 months, his growth has been steady and impressive. However, like any venture it has not been perfect and there have been a couple bumps along the way.
Recently, I sat down with him, and asked him about his first 9 months. Here’s what Matt has learned.
What things about starting and running the agency have been harder than you expected?
MC: The tension between looking at my goals to stay motivated, and remembering to do the day to day activities that will hit the goal. As things get hard, I have to look at the end goal to keep going, but it is really easy for me to fall into daydreaming about success, and forgetting to make my sales calls and marketing contacts. Yet, if I didn’t have those dreams the daily activities would grind on me.
Related to this is sticking to the activities I had set up in my business plan. There are times when the busy working of the agency takes over, and I don’t make time for the activities that will keep my pipeline full of leads.
Also, riding the wave of work/life balance. I’ve gone overboard in both directions.
Knowing where to spend marketing dollars had been really hard. Running quick calculations for return on investment isn’t difficult, but many of the activities I might do won’t have immediate returns. So how do I calculate for that? For example, say I run multiple Facebook ads, and I drives leads to me. That’s easy to calculate, but then 3-6 months later, a couple more leads trickle in from the campaign. I don’t mind spending money on activities that generate business, but because of the slow-acting nature of some marketing, it is really hard to make those decisions.
As I think about the future, and I realize that I need to start making hires. Planning for this has been harder than expected. Knowing which activities, I need someone to do, plus find them is becoming a challenge as I start looking.
What was much easier than you expected?
MC: Generating referrals has been much easier. In my other jobs as a producer, I would talk with family and friends and some would give me a shot at their business, but most wouldn’t. I don’t know what flipped when I started my own business, but I am getting more “yes’s” when I ask. Also I have had more people I know reach out to me to help them. I am not sure if it because they know I am the owner, and this isn’t some short-term job. Maybe my approach has changed because I have more confidence and urgency to sell as an owner.
A big surprise has been the amount of support I have gotten from other independent agents. There are several across the country that I talk with regularly, and they have been incredibly encouraging as well as very open about strategies and tactics inside the agency. My previous experience as a producer inside an agency was that everyone kept things close to the vest, and afraid of giving away their trade secrets.
What would you have done different?
MC: I would have been more aggressive at developing more and deeper relationships with influencers that are sources of business. At this point, I am doing more of that, but I relied so much on the low-hanging fruit of friends and family in the beginning, I didn’t work as hard on getting those lead sources in place.
What didn’t you know that you wish you had?
MC: I had no idea about the power of social media, especially Facebook, and its ability to generate business. Also how important content creation to drive business has surprised me. I am working on changing that and looking to outsource some of those activities.
Last question, what do you wish your companies would have done for you early on?
MC: In the captive world, companies do a much better job launching an agency. In my State Farm experience, there is a lot of marketing money given up front. Sometimes up to 50k, with other dollars trickling in to do marketing. Anything from a marketing side would have been nice. It could have been tents or banners for networking events, or even small amounts to help with lead generation.
Overall, I am happy about my decision, but not there is still a lot to do because I start realizing those daydreams.
If you’ve done an insurance startup, do you have any advice for Matt? Leave your comments below: