Behind The Curtain: Starting a Scratch Insurance Agency | Woman-Owned
I have been thinking about my career and what it means to me over the past few days and felt maybe it is time to express it on our website. Few know the struggles of making a business like this last on your sheer determination. It has been a beautiful, worthwhile struggle, though.
I started my agency in 2009 on a leap of faith. Have you ever been faced with an opportunity to do something very different, uncharted, unknown, and scary? That's what landed in my lap summer of 2009. Freshly licensed as a P&C Insurance Agent, very little experience writing/selling insurance policies. I was a green hat - with a nursing background. What was I thinking!!!? The economy tanked in 2008, and I lived in the Energy Capital - Gillette, WY. The oil and gas fields were shutting down, and so were many businesses. Nobody was hiring, and I was let go of my less-than-a-year position as a customer service rep for an insurance agency. I had no real option (other than to go back into the medical field). I decided to take the leap and say yes to starting my own - scratch agency when presented with the idea from our district manager, Sheila. Meaning I started with zero clients. I had no idea what I was in for. She had faith in me, and from that day forward, I was now a business owner with zero experience. Yikes!
It's funny to look back on. In the medical field, if someone is sick, they come to you. You don't have to pick up the phone and ask them to come in. 30 days into opening my agency, I sit here... watching the phone. Not one person is calling me!! Build it, and they will come - they say. I had no idea I had to get the business. What a concept! One day, on day 30, a young lady stops in and buys her car insurance from me! Her policy was the first on the books, and the commissions paid me $75. That was my first paycheck, and I am still thankful for her. That sale restored hope for me. Onward to more extraordinary days!
At the beginning of my career, the lack of understanding of insurance contract law was a sticking point. I needed to understand what I was selling and quickly. I purchased and read multiple books; I re-read them and read again! Eventually, I realized the insurance policy was a legal contract! A legal contract! Whaaaaa? Do we sell legal contracts? Is it more than the numbers on the front page?
Here's where ignorance and being a new insurance agent bit me. My personality! By default, I always assume people have good intentions, and it truly surprised when they don't. My "green hat" showed brightly when my first opportunity to insure an apartment complex was only to keep the client's current agent honest! I had no idea people would do this sort of activity. This was a turning point in my mind. After all the time I spent at the apartments, hours of paperwork, and data gathering was all for nothing. I couldn't send an invoice to them for my time either. A hard lesson indeed. I suppose it wasn't for nothing; I did learn how to insure a 12-building complex and trial and error with acord applications. No hard feelings, only a learning opportunity. I also learned this commercial industry is a man's world - and I am here to stay!
This account created my love of Commercial Insurance. I enrolled shortly after into the commercial producer school with the National Alliance and have since gained further designations as a Certified Insurance Counselor. I am currently working towards my CRM designation. This designation will allow me to expand my abilities as a Risk Manager for consultant work alongside my insurance consulting practice. It's strange, as I was certain that life, health, and long-term care would be the highlights of my career due to my prior career in the medical field. However, I have learned that insurance is a form of taking care of people. We care for their future financial situation; if ever a loss happens. Commercial Insurance presents a puzzle. It's challenging, and when you visit with business owners, it is refreshing to see them glow with pride about their hard work and accomplishments. The amount of knowledge I have gained by learning from my client's specific line of work is astounding! The challenge is finding all the missing pieces and filling them as needed. Solving problems and providing a greater good makes any difficult day joyful.
My agency went from quasi-captive/independent to wholly owned independent in 2017. What did this mean for the agency? I had to start scratch again! But this time, I knew how to keep the doors open and not wait. Those same clients stayed loyal and remained with the agency.
Today, through a handful of employees, agents, and life hurdles, we are a well-rounded agency. Jennifer joined me in 2018, bringing decades of experience. In 2019, Lorna joined forces, also having decades of experience. Between the 3 of us, we handle just about anything the public needs for insurance. I believe that combined have 60+/- years of experience. Oops, maybe I shouldn't have said that. We are holding at 29 years! :)
I have had wonderful mentors over the years of business ownership; a few have worked next to me in the office. I love to learn from all agents. Everyone has a story of failure and success, and if you are a new agent or new agency owner, it is wise to listen and absorb all the stories, tricks, old-school advice, (etc). A scratch agency owner, well, that is nothing short of insanity. It is rarely done, and few make it. Cheers to those who have not purchased, walked into a book of clients, or weren't mentored before owning an agency.
So, here we are in 2023; The journey has been: fun, challenging, sleepless, stressful, scary, and rewarding owning an insurance agency. I am thankful for the opportunity I was provided in 2009. We have made it this far with the help of fantastic clients, referral partners, staff, and the general public.