Initial Lessons From My Job Change

Since I left the big corporate world for my family's insurance business, I haven't written anything about how it is going. Today, I finally have a story for you.

We are an independent insurance agency, which means we represent a lot of different companies and we work with them to place clients with insurance to cover their houses, cars and small businesses. We also do a bit of life insurance, but not a whole lot. So, we work with people who are either new to the area, or who think they might be spending too much money. We also work with people who might have spotty records or bad credit. We have a company that will be willing to cover just about any risk out there.

Since joining this family business I have spent most of my time doing general management types of things. I do accounting, computers, and most recently a ton of marketing and advertising. At the same time, I have taken a few shots at selling actual insurance policies to people. Mostly, I would say that I have been successful. Today I hit a snag that left me just a little bit annoyed with the business.

I had a small business owner who I had worked with on a project at my house. At the end of that relationship as I was handing them a check, I said, "If you want us to take a shot and see if we can save you any money on your insurance, let me know" and I gave him a card. No pressure. I wouldn't make for a very good pressure salesman. A few months pass and I got an email from the business owners saying that they in fact wanted me to see if I could get them a better price.

So, I got the information I needed and started working with all the companies that we represent. Some didn't want any part of the type of business because of what they do, or because they were a brand new company having been in business less than one year. So, I sent the details out to market and received some replies. One company in particular that I know has really great markets for the type of business said that they didn't want to cover the business because it was a new business. I talked to the underwriter of that company directly and explained that while this was a new business, the owner had been working in the field for a long time and was just newly out on his own.

With my explanation as to why the risk wasn't typical of that of a new company, the underwriter agreed to write the company at a price that was going to save them over 20% per year. Score. The small business owners were elated and agreed to everything. On top of that, it turns out that I was going to be able to save this small business owner some money on his personal insurance. I did a whole bunch more work to get a good price for his home and personal car. Score again.

Today, the bottom dropped out. When the small business owner called to cancel with their current agent, their agent became upset because he represents the same company where I had worked my butt off to get the small business placed. He gave the small business owner some kind of excuse as to why he hadn't represented it as an option and he called the company, with which I had worked so diligently, and they agreed to write the same policy for him. As a result, the small business sent me an email letting me know the situation and how they weren't going to switch from their current agent to me.

It just doesn't seem fair, does it? Why should someone else make all the commissions on a policy that I had to do all the work to write in the first place? If he was such a good agent, why didn't he work directly with the underwriter the way I did? This business is a little bit cut-throat that way, I guess.

Anyway, I guess this is just something that is good to learn.

Never assume you have a policy written until it shows up on a report from the insurance company. I thought this one was in the bag for at least the last two weeks before the rug got pulled out from under me.

Always try and work directly with an underwriter to make sure they understand the risk you are representing. Even though I don't get the fruits of my labor, I did a better job than the other agent in making sure the client was getting the best policy for the best price.

Don't get too discouraged when someone makes a bad decision at the end. Part of the licensing course for insurance states that the client is expected to not understand the insurance process. In this case the client didn't understand why I was able to get the price I was able to get and was fooled by the existing agent into keeping their business with him.

It is good to learn lessons, but too bad it had to be on my first potential commercial account.

It is a good thing I have some more broad advertising and marketing issues to keep me interested for the time being. Selling to individuals is a bit sour at the current moment. I just have to keep confident that taking care of people and putting forth a solid, smart effort will push me ahead of most of my peers in this business. Plus, it won't always work out this way that the client will choose to stay with someone who didn't do a good job in the first place. Hopefully I can steal some of his unhappy clients in the future.