Blake Bivens, Agency Development Field Specialist
The old saying goes, “Good things come to those who wait.” While that may be okay for waiting on your first hole-in-one in golf or your dog to come back home after wondering off for the weekend, it doesn’t lend itself to the success of a small business, more specifically in this case, your new independent insurance agency.
If you have already taken a leap of faith and put a sign on a door, or opened up your virtual storefront via your new website, waiting for prospects and clients is no longer an option. You need revenue coming in now. You need carriers to match up with those prospects to turn into clients, and you need technology to help you manage those clients.
Overwhelmed yet? What if there was a company out there that connected you with carriers that fit your needs, aided in your search for the right technology, provided you with a mentor/coach, and provided you with the highest commission schedules available through a nationally identifiable lineup of partner Insurance Carriers. Mountain Empire Agency Alliance is that solution. Let’s break down the top three ways our unique agency partnership can fast track the success of your insurance agency.
Access to Carriers
As one of the mentor/coaches for Mountain Empire Agency Alliance (MEAA) the first thing I hear from our new agencies is, “when am I going to get appointed with a carrier?” This is a great question, and is an important question. You got in this business to sell insurance and to do that you have to have carriers. The approach most take when doing this alone is they hear through family, friends in the business, or maybe even on a commercial that “XYZ Company is great because they are there when your wife’s shed is burning down,” so that makes you naturally want to go out and get that company. Basically you are throwing appointment options up against a wall in hopes that one of them will stick, and you’ll be able to write everyone you come in contact with. That can be a complete waste of time for you and the carriers, and end up causing you tremendous frustration as you begin your new venture.
At MEAA we give you the opportunity to try companies out for a time period to see who best fits the clients you are bringing in, and matches well with your marketing strategy. We have a program in place that allows you to quote and issue business, both for personal and commercial lines clients, with all our partner carriers. So while you may be crossing your fingers that your one or two carriers match up with the prospect you have just met with, we give you access to over 30 carriers on day one. When you’ve found one or two that work for your needs, we then contact the company, and have them reach out to you for a direct appointment. There is no guess work in what we do. We watch your production through our available marketplace from day one, and connect you with the carrier(s) you are having success with. Surely you still test drive a car before you buy it? This is no different, and this process leads to success and revenue, rather than frustration and stuck searching for a carrier that may or may not help you.
Put Technology to Work for You
Now that you have an agency, you have to manage the clients that choose to do business with your agency. It wasn’t that long ago, 15-20 years, an agent would fill out an application with the client, fax it to the company to underwrite, get a call saying they would write it and here is your price, and then having the client sign the application, give them a check and then mail both of those documents to the company for binding. Then you take all that paper and put it in one of your many monotone shaded filing cabinets and leave it there until they call to make a change, at which time you get to get up and search through the corresponding filing cabinet, pull out their file, fill out another piece of paper for the change request, fax that change request, put that in the file, and back in the cabinet, then mail the change to the insured. That was exhausting to even type.
Thankfully technology has come a very long way in the last 10 -15 years and that process is almost fully automated. In fact, for many sales transactions you never have to meet face to face if you don’t want to, and maybe that’s okay given we’re still in a “COVID” world. You can assess a client’s needs over the phone, or a video conference, quote their insurance on a company’s website, give them another call to go over the proposal or send them a video of you going over the proposal, and finish it off by taking their payment information over the phone and having an E-signed application emailed to and from the client. Changes can even be made by the client on the application you help them download, yeah, there is an app for that.
Rather than those bulky filing cabinets everything fits nicely in your Agency Management System (AMS) that can be accessed from anywhere you have internet service. MEAA can connect you with multiple vendors to help you find the right AMS for you. There are AMS programs that cost $1000s per month and a startup just does not need all that. There are some that start out very basic and can be added to as you need. We help you navigate through what you will need so you are not paying more money than necessary for too much technology. If you’re not careful, you can be overrun with technology that you could never possibly use, or you never figure out how it is helping you run a successful agency. There’s applications, phone systems, cloud storage, calendar add-ons, scheduling software, and the list goes on of programs meant to make your life easier. Our team will help you find the right balance.
Expert Support from the MEAA Team
If you were to research why agencies fail, you would find a myriad of reasons, but one that seems to be on every list is the agency owner did not have a support system. At MEAA, that’s where we separate ourselves from the competition.
On our team, we have a personal lines mentor & coach, Dave Wells, with 20+ years of experience exclusively in personal lines to assist you with coverage questions, marketing trends, marketing options, company appetite, claims questions, billing, and a host of other things that will come up during the course of your time as an agency owner.
You’ve have already met me, Blake Bivens, I am the commercial lines mentor & coach, with over 15 years of experience, almost exclusively in commercial lines to help assist you in all the above that Dave helps you with, and I come at it from experience as a Commercial Lines Underwriter, Commercial Producer, Commercial Marketing Manager, and Commercial Account Manager. I’ve worn a lot of different hats with the focus being built around commercial insurance production.
We also have staff that have managed an agency. From sales production, to maintaining the overall health and profitability of the agency, we have folks who can walk you through goal setting, Profit and Loss Statements, figuring out the most important reports to run, and a host of other tips and tricks to keep your agency moving forward. We love watching our agents succeed in ways they never thought possible.
Sometimes you just feel like you’re the only agency where X could be happening, and that’s a common feeling whether positive or negative. Not only do you have a staff of mentors to talk things through with, we also have a network that encompasses three states—Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia—and we network of almost 150 agency owners who are more than willing to help a new agent with many of the items I have talked about above.
I will leave you with this. I have worked with almost 140 agencies in the past three years, and no matter how big or small, they all have obstacles to overcome and questions they need answers to. When you are an independent agent it can feel like your agency is on an island, and you have to navigate through all the ups and downs of agency ownership on your own. We have agencies that have existed over 100 years, some that just started and others in the middle, and they all have a unique fingerprint. They all have had good days and bad days. They are very willing to talk with you about some things that have worked and other things that just fell flat. They all started somewhere.
I connect agents and owners all the time on many levels. While island life may be good for Jimmy Buffet and Kenny Chesney, it can be a tough feeling for you, the independent agency owner. Fast tracked success occurs when we level the playing field for you. We give you access to companies on day one, and numerous nationally recognizable companies. We help you wade through the endless levels of technology you can get yourself into, and help you find the Goldilocks amount. We want you to be the best business owner you can be, on top of the already knowledgeable insurance professional you are. We will be there when days are good or bad, and we will work with you, at your pace, to make sure you reach your goals and realize your dreams of successful business ownership. Mountain Empire Agency Alliance can’t wait to meet you, and walk with you on your insurance journey.