Sometimes you just need to find the right piece of technology to mine your book better.
When you do, you create more brain space to monitor the profitability of the business you're already selling.
Then all of a sudden, different paths start to appear that lead to better places to stick your foot in the door.
When it gets there you'll have more time and information to figure out the best way to move forward.
Alex Dopazo, Agency Principal at Dopazo and Associates, talks about how they knew it was time to look for something different.
Full Episode Transcript
Joey Giangola: Mr. Alex Dapazo. How are you doing today, sir?
Alex Dapazo: I'm doing fantastic, Mr. Giangola. How about you?
Joey Giangola: I'm doing all right, Alex. I want to know this, because I think it's very important. How does it feel to do something that you said you would never do?
Alex Dapazo: That's a good question. We're doing a recording, right? I've done a few recordings, and every time right before somebody hits record, or I hit record, there's this really gut-wrenching feeling I have. That's what it feels like to do something I'd never done before. It's this weird, gut-wrenching feeling until you actually did it, and then you turn around and you're like, "Why, why did I spend so much time not doing it?" That is the feeling I think I would describe as a feeling of doing something you've never done before. You hesitate forever and then you do it and you look back and you're like, "I could have done this a long time ago."
Joey Giangola: Well, I was actually referencing something even a little more innocent because the last time we had spoke, you had said to me that you would never get a dog. I remember just several, maybe a couple of weeks ago, a month or two ago that I see this little fur ball up on social media somewhere. And that felt like, I appreciate that, Alex. You're doing something you said you never would do before. I just wanted to know, being on the other side of it now, how is life?
Alex Dapazo: Well, we named her Joy because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Quarantine made me painfully obvious that as a parent, I was not doing a sufficient job of teaching my kids the importance of taking care of something that can't take care of itself. Being a part of family. And because of that, my penance was going to do the thing I said I would never do, which was bring an animal into our home, which couldn't take care of itself so that they would have responsibility over it. Now, I know as a dad and I know you as a dad is probably... you expect me to be doing all the work. I will say, I'm doing more work than I want to be doing, but I am pretty, pretty good with them about making sure that if it's 6:00 in the morning and there's poop to be cleaned up, that they're doing it.
My wife wanted a Goldendoodle. It was actually a gift for my wife because she was the one who really, really wanted the dog. So, that's what we got was a Goldendoodle, our corona fur baby, as I think the memes are going. Man, it is exactly what I expected it to be. We're going out of town for a wedding this weekend, finding somebody to watch the dog is hard. But the kids are overjoyed with the dog, and they can't complain when I tell them to do things because that was part of the contract, and they don't. They listen to that. I got to say, that's worth every penny.
Joey Giangola: [inaudible] sometimes it works out, you know what I mean? But to me pets are just delayed sadness, just waiting to happen 15, 20 years. That's all you're doing, just guaranteeing it.
Alex Dapazo: Well, you're not wrong. There will be a moment where everyone will be sad. Then my wife will try to convince me to get another one. I'm going on record now as saying, I'm not going to get another one, but I was wrong about the first time, so I don't know if you want to take that bet or not.
Joey Giangola: At this point, I am not taking that bet, Alex. But we'll revisit it maybe at the halfway mark and see how we're doing. But I really just wanted to catch up. It's been a while. I wanted to know what's going on in the agency. What is happening in your world in terms of insurance? How are you guys getting along and wrapping up 2020? What does things look like for you guys?
Alex Dapazo: You know, it's been interesting, like it's been for pretty much everybody else. We were talking a little offline about how the experience of corona 19 has been different for different folks. For our agency, to be honest, it hasn't been a difficult run. We were fortunate to have an emergency plan, not for quarantine, of course, but it was for hurricanes. And that was always to go remote. Thankfully, all of the technology worked so it was relatively easy for us to switch to home. In fact, it only took a day.
We were less productive working from home for 60 days, but nonetheless, we were just as responsive as we had always been. In fact, I'd say one of my proudest moments was, I want to say the Friday before we came back to the office, I had two or three different customers who on the phone were like, "Oh, I'm sorry. You're not at the office?"
I'm like, "No, no, no. My receptionist is in Kendall, which is 12 miles away. My father is in Homestead, which is another 12 miles away. We're working as if we were there." And our customers, from their perspective, couldn't tell the difference. We're in an industry that has a slight delayed recession, right? So, right now the construction industry is booming. Our strengths are small business, so we can very easily adapt to write that business and grow that business. We've been taking advantage of that and then continue to do that.
As the year is coming down to a close, we are starting to see things slow down a little, mostly because businesses are starting to struggle a little bit more as some of the relief that they had is beginning to dwindle, which is expected. So, what we're looking to do is find as a business, alternative products to be able to get out there and sell. We've been talking about and are working on a plan for trying to sell less geographically-based products. So, a little bit more cyber, a little bit more professional for consultants and things like that.
Especially since we expect that business to grow in 2021. Folks who are no longer working at small businesses, are going to try their best to come up with something. If we can help protect the funds that they're earning, we want to be able to be a part of that. Now just having to reach them, and how to reach them, and where they are in the cycle, and all of that we have to work out, but we're on our way.
Joey Giangola: Yeah. You're certainly not going to hear any arguments from me in terms of cyber and professional liability. What has that conversation been like just in the limited fashion that you've been approaching it? I know you guys have played heavily in the commercial space, but if I remember correctly, it was never heavily on those lines. What is your approach to expanding and having the conversation about, whatever I guess the cross sell is, but what has the approach been to have that extra conversation that you maybe didn't make time for before?
Alex Dapazo: Well, it's also been again, a plus that everybody's working from home, right? So, the reality is, if you have these small businesses that were say location-based, and they're no longer location-based, they're calling and they're asking the questions, like, "Well, I no longer have a location, do I really need that general liability insurance?" And then it becomes really easy to start having the conversation about the consultative piece of their business. And let's talk about professional and cyber, because those are your largest exposures. They still need the general. I'm not an advocate for getting rid of that in any way, shape, or form.
People ask me... A person who I'm quoting right now, who I met through an online networking event that was run by a previously physical group was like, "Oh, well, why would I need it? All my techs are working from home." And I'm like, "Yeah, well, when you get back, you're going to go to those meetings with me?" He's like, "Yes, so that's why you're [inaudible] the general liability because you're going to be there." And he's like, "Oh." But he never carried professional or cyber. And it was part of that conversation that led to that.
So, we're trying to segue people as some businesses are beginning to stop thinking so much about their physical spaces and they're seeing their businesses grow beyond that, the importance of how cyber liability, what it is. It's a horribly named product, but as much as I try to find a good name for it, I can't either. So, I could see why they stuck with that one. But the realities of, "Hey, there's a huge gap, a possible loss that you have to exist. I just want you to know that they're there and that this product is available. These are the goods, these are the bads, and you just got to make your business risk decisions from there."
Joey Giangola: Yeah. What do you think it was about maybe... We've had a lot of conversations over the years. We know a lot of the same people. What do you think it is about just getting comfortable in the conversation that you've always had? You kind of get stuck in what you do. So, I guess at what point do you say, "Yeah, we've had success here." But at what point does it become time to start evaluating and saying, "Yeah, maybe we can start to try something new." Is there any sort of thing that has worked for you guys in identifying the right time when to branch out a little bit?
Alex Dapazo: It's always hard, right? Remember being in school and you were coming in through the back, that one fence that everybody had in the back that looked like one of those fake doors? And it was this worn pathway that everyone decided was the way you had to walk, so it wore the grass out to the PE field or this, that, or the other. Folks tend to keep doing the same thing over and over again. It is really hard. It's part of my sales pitch, it's part of my conversation with clients to deviate from what I know works, right? I think what's been a catalyst for us beyond quarantine has been, we finally have found some technology that allows us to mine our book in a much better way than we used to.
So, for us, it was always very difficult to really look at what we had on the books and then say, it's worth the expense to hire another person whose job will be to just mine that book. Right? To go in there and look for those opportunities where we can get our foot in the door for other lines of business. Sometimes we have to think a little non-linearly. Our agency, we just got to that point where we were like, "Well, now this technology gives us a better handle on who we could reach out, how we can reach out, and also be able to see how that book grows." Right?
And technically, most of that should be profit. But beyond the simplicity of something like that, we also realized that if you call a customer to offer a cyber quote, who you likely know isn't going to buy that cyber quote, a conversation can open to other lines of business that has nothing to do with cyber. You just gave yourself that extra touch, and you did your job a little bit better. So, I think what happens is that sometimes we don't realize what we're sitting on and certain types of shifts where you finally see the potential and it's worth walking through the grass and getting your wet.
Joey Giangola: You mentioned a technology, so I got to know then Alex, what are you actually using? And what is working the best right now?
Alex Dapazo: Well, you might know we're an AMS360 agency. We've been using that for 15 years or so online. And it does a great job for being able to handle renewals and things like that. But you have to have an MIT degree in statistics to be able to get anything out of that that's worthwhile, or pay somebody who has an MIT degree, and they're not cheap. So, we actually came across a piece of technology called AgencyZoom, which integrates with AMS360. The information that we were able to pull out of our current data, it just blew our minds. Not only does it offer a lot more tracking, a lot simpler. Because it's not more. We were always tracking business. We were always tracking where it came from, how it came from, who was winning and who was losing.
It just required an enormous amount of work to be able to do it. So, thinking outside of, "Oh, what can we do with this information?" There was no brain space for that. There's no bandwidth. Now we have that. So, it's easier. I had a meeting today, our weekly SEO meeting with our web guy. Part of what we talk about first week of the month is how we did last month. Those reports take me three seconds compared to what it used to, to be able to figure out where the lead came from, how it came from, it's integrated into our website.
So, when the lead comes in, it's now AgencyZoom allows us to use the Zapier integration so we're able to automatically segment that to where it belongs and I'm not having to go back to the CSRs or the VA and be like, "Hey, can you please fix this data?" It's a little bit more automated, and that freedom gives us opportunities to look for more opportunities.
Joey Giangola: Yeah, it's just dramatically underrated, I guess, with the effort and the efficiency that goes into being able to have those insights, right? Because yeah, you could say, "Oh, we're tracking it, or we're paying attention to this." But yet, what does it take for you to get to that point? If it's two weeks, a week, three weeks, whatever that process is, it should be something that is probably much more condensed. So, I'm assuming that's a very liberating feeling that you may or may not have at this moment.
Alex Dapazo: Oh, no, no. I can't even begin to... It's funny because like all good things, it was serendipitous. I knew one of the representatives of the company. She was at a virtual event. I clicked on it to say hi. Then we started talking about the product and then I didn't believe it, because we've seen lots of products over the years and they don't all necessarily do what they say they're going to do. And in our case for the way we run our business, it absolutely did exactly... We've been dying for a product like this because it just happened to fit our model so well. We have a WordPress website, it connects to AMS360, it's seamless both ways, we're able to connect it to our G Suite because that's what we use, you know.
So, there's certain integrations that happened to fit perfectly for what we did. I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it is to have all of these automatic drip triggers, working just seamlessly and simply, as far as communicating with our customers because it collects at Twilio. So, we're texting our customers as part of the sales process, they're getting a thank you and a few videos to tell them how to interact with our agency after the fact. So, not having to think about that but one time, putting it together, and then just allowing us to have actual constructive meetings about what the data is and what we can do going forward to maximize these reaches is... Yeah, man. If I could have fireworks...
Joey Giangola: Paint me a picture a little bit, I guess, of life before, life after. I guess maybe what sort of experiences or encounters started to come from those efforts that really surprised you?
Alex Dapazo: Well, when you're running an agency, one of the not-so-secret secrets about being an agency owner, or an agency principal, or even just caring about your agency so much that you care about it winning, is that no one teaches you how to do this, right? We have to figure it out. Without the proper information, you feel all the time like you're behind the eight ball. You feel like you're shooting from the hip. You're not 100% sure that you're hitting the targets that you want. So, being 100% sure about exactly where our CSRs are, as far as the new business that came in, where it came from, where they're being the most successful, because again, the data's just cleaner, and then being able to say, "Okay, well, we thought we were making money because we were writing a lot of these policies, but we're losing money. We need to stop concentrating on that and start..."
Just because Paul's account isn't equating to revenue, right? There's too much work. The length of time from lead to sale is taking too long and too many touches. We can see that now. We guessed before, and we were wrong in some cases. We were right in others. But in most of them we either got confirmation, or we changed the way we we're doing things. And all of a sudden we feel energized about the new opportunity. So, whether or not the new opportunity ends up becoming something or not ends up being on how good we do it. But for the first time in a while, we've got a lot of energy. We want to go after business that we hadn't had before, and not just with new customers, but within our own current book, which is the gold, because the real profit lies in there.
Joey Giangola: So, again, like I said, we've been running in the same circles for a while. I'm curious looking back at all that time, what's something that you think maybe we were chasing that maybe didn't end up coming to fruition, that was maybe something that didn't have as much tangibility to it, as much value to it. Then maybe on the other side, what's something that we've been talking about for a long time, maybe we've just spent the last 20 minutes talking about it, but that we've been talking about for a long time, that really actually has delivered and is finally here now?
Alex Dapazo: It's something that we've been looking for that didn't end up being as valuable as we thought. It's kind of hard, right? So, there's been so much change lately and really realizing, kind of knowing, well, hey, we thought we wanted this and we kind of didn't. It would be a very individualized experience. For instance, my agency. So, we tried marketing campaigns with email to our existing book of customers. Right? You would think, so many people talk about those things. We spent a significant amount of money in developing this and getting it out there. I got to tell you, it failed miserably, just miserably. Our customers hate it. They don't want to get emails from us, even if we try to make them non-marketing style emails. I heard someone earlier today talking about how their customers love it when the whole team puts their favorite recipe on the Thanksgiving newsletter and how much positive feedback they got from that.
That just never was, for whatever reason, the Dapazo Insurance client, that didn't seem to work. So, we spent a ton of money on trying to do that. Then we realized that isn't the type of communication our customers are coming to expect from us. Right? We are a commercial agency, but our customers primarily want very direct, very succinct emails that have to do specifically with them and their business, and what that means as far as the insurance is concerned or something of the other. I would say probably for us, that's been something that just hasn't been successful. And again, I can only say that's for me. Right? Because a lot of folks are having fantastic results with the same thing.
Conversely, one of the things that I think that we've been looking for, we've been dying for, we've been thirsting for, at least in the circles that you and I had in common, Joey, were integrating sales into the agency management system, right? Because the unicorn would be something that did both sales and managed our book of businesses. That looks very different in Florida than it does in Ohio. Right? Because Florida is a very E&S heavy state. We have very, very few standard carriers. If I started to name homeowner's carriers from Florida, unless you were in some of the the Carolinas and maybe Texas, no one else would know who these carriers are. If I told you about their surpluses, you guys would cry. It's a different world down here than it is over there.
So, there's very little as far as similarities in the way that they quote. Systems that they use are across the board. So, it's very hard for us to be able to get an online quote from multiple carriers all at the same time and be able to then immediately dump that into my system while at the same time, tell my producer that that's available and ready to go so that they can time how much time between the quote to the actual sale that they had. That's what we're looking for.
And there's good reasons why it's hard. There's a lot of technology that we're talking about here, and we're talking about crossing some bridges that are longer than the Seven Mile Bridge in Tampa. So, the reality is that what I think we want, or we really haven't quite gotten yet is that product, right? That product that can really bridge those two parts of our business, because we've been running those two parts of our businesses separately and not talking to each other. Right?
As an agent, I don't own an insurance company, so I'll preface it with that. It makes zero sense why claims and underwriting don't talk. You would think claims and underwriting would talk all the time so that there would be synergy between what claim output is and what underwriting is offering over to the claim department, so that customer experience would work. But in our agencies, a lot of us were... we had salespeople, producers, and the folks who were running the technical part of the business, the submitting, the uploading, the apps, the CSR, and never shall the two meet. And we've never wanted to run our agency that way. In fact, we never have run our agency that way. Every person in our office is a salesperson in one way, shape or form, right?
That's just always been the way we've considered to do our business. But now, with some of the technology beginning to come out, really bringing in that sales data, it allows us to be able to do more than we used to, but we're not there yet. There's still a lot of Band-Aids holding together a dam, type of technology out there. Again, it's going to be different for every agency. We had larger amounts of money to invest than maybe some others. So, if you're a scratch agency and you're trying to do the same thing, there might be a bigger investment you should be aware of before you try to get on that train.
Joey Giangola: Yeah. I definitely think it's coming, Alex. I don't know exactly how soon it's going to get here. It's showing slight signs of already being available. But [crosstalk]-
Alex Dapazo: Yeah, no, no. Well, why do we have to explode? Why did this whole system have to implode before people started to realize, "Huh. Maybe we really want to track that sales data." But, yeah. I agree with you. I see some positive things on the horizon.
Joey Giangola: Yeah. All right, Alex. I got three more questions for you. First, very simply, what is one thing that you hope you never forget?
Alex Dapazo: One thing I hope I never forget. It's going to be sappy. I'm sorry. But I hope I never forget the feeling of holding my daughter for the first time.
Joey Giangola: Oh, jeez. Damn it. Yeah. All right, Alex. You're [crosstalk]-
Alex Dapazo: Sorry. Dude, you asked me. It was a great feeling.
Joey Giangola: I'm holding the tears back, I'm holding the tears back. All right, fine. On the other side, this one probably shouldn't be sappy, but we'll see. What's one thing that you still have yet to learn?
Alex Dapazo: Man, there's a lot on that list. One thing I have yet to learn. I have yet to learn how to close a deal. Let me explain what I mean by that. There's definitely an art to having a conversation that isn't necessarily leading to a close, but making sure that the conversation stays on track to that close. I'm a little scatterbrained. You may have realized that just by this conversation. But I tend to close business because of brute force, just constantly trying to keep in contact with the customer, let them see the value in this, that, and the other.
I feel that I have never been quite good at leading the conversation that way to shorten the time period it takes to close the deal. I don't know if that makes any sense or if you understand where I'm going with it, but I don't think I've learned how to do that just yet. My dad's a master at it. And I'm trying to learn.
Joey Giangola: I completely understand Alex, and it sounds like you need more conversation with your dad. But anyways, last question to you, sir. I'm going to hand you a magic wand of sorts to basically change, alter, reshape, speed up any part of insurance that you see fit. What's happening, where's it going, and what you doing?
Alex Dapazo: Okay. A magic wand to alter insurance and make something better.
Joey Giangola: Or worse, Alex. Whatever. But we prefer better.
Alex Dapazo: Worst doesn't take much. But better, I'm trying to figure out the right way to say this. Right now, the customer experience across insurance is so unbelievably varied, that it is almost impossible for one voice to really, really change the perception of what the group people see as what insurance is for them. That perception that they have doesn't quite fit the passion of the people behind insurance.
So, you take the underwriters and the actuaries and the claims folks who all are empathetic people who want to see customers brought back from a very difficult situation. They want to see businesses thrive regardless of the accident that just occurred. Right? And that perception isn't necessarily had from the consumer perspective. I blame it 100% on the fact that claim A and claim B and claim C are not all handled the same. And the customer experiences are a very, very different.
So, if I had a magic wand, I would like to magically find a way to be able for customers to have a more similar experience so that we can make ground in getting, I think the larger perspective of what we do for a living a better score from the consumer side of things. Because consumers are tired of hearing things on TV and then not actually having received that at the time of a claim. And so, because of that experience, which had nothing to do with me, when they call me for that very same line of insurance, and even though because of their new experience, I can help them not fall into the same trap, they already... I'm still behind the eight ball on them. I have to work to get them to trust that insurance is going to help their business or help their home or their personal finances because they've had a negative experience.
Joey Giangola: Alex, this has been fantastic. I'm going to leave it right there, sir.
Alex Dapazo: All right.