Because you can't go wrong making sure everyone always understands their insurance.

It's that commitment that goes a long way to stand out against a profitable mindset.

In the end, it's the relationship that wins over and over again far outlasting any transaction formula.

Alvin Roehr, president and CEO of Roehr's Insurance Agency, talks about all the wrong things they do to find consistent success.

Joey Giangola: Mr. Alvin Roehr, how you doing today, sir?

Alvin Roehr: I'm doing great, Joey. How are you?

Joey Giangola: Alvin, I'm doing all right, sir. I'm doing all right. I want to know this before we get into anything too serious, is there anything that you refuse to do just out and about in society, just very minor, it doesn't have to be anything major, it's just something that you say, "Yeah, I'm not going to do that," and for whatever reason, it makes maybe no sense to you, but you feel better at the end of the day for having not participated.

Alvin Roehr: Being an insurance agent, I represent people on every side of every spectrum, so I have to be very, very careful, politically correct, just about everything I do. There are a lot of things out there that drive me nuts. I guess I'm probably going to fight wearing a mask from here on out. How about that? I'll take my chances.

Joey Giangola: For me, Alvin, it's a tiny shopping cart. For whatever reason, if I'm going to the store, I'm either going to go big shopping cart, basket. I can't bring myself to push the little shopping cart around for whatever reason. It just feels like it doesn't serve much of a purpose for me.

Alvin Roehr: Even if you buy one small thing, I do the same thing, so that's funny you mentioned that.

Joey Giangola: Yeah. Yeah, it's just one of those things I refuse to do. I mean, I'll push the kids' carts around. I'll put the kids in there all day long, but just the shopping cart that's like in-between, I need something a little more substantial in my life. Alvin, I wanted move that over to the world of insurance. You've had a pretty interesting career and I'm kind of curious to talk about the ebbs and flows of that, but is there something that you have, for whatever reason, drawn a line in the sand and said, you know what, I don't know that this makes sense for what I want to do and how I want to do things when it comes to selling insurance or just my business in general? It could be just something minor again that for whatever reason you have maybe avoided on purpose.

Alvin Roehr: There's really not. One of the things that we do that I think is different than a lot of people is that I grew up sitting at a kitchen table meeting with people, talking about their insurance, so if I have a person that pays me $500 a year, they'll probably get as much service as somebody that's paying me hundreds of thousands dollars a year because I know that when you're in that situation, you want to know the answers, and so you have no idea who is going to be there and who you're going to be talking with. I feel like if I have one thing to offer, it's explaining insurance programs to different people. I kind of thrive on that, so I probably find myself doing things I shouldn't be doing, but that's just the way it's going to be.

Joey Giangola: Well, obviously, would you consider that something that maybe attributed to your success then, just standing by that sort of core, we'll say principle, maybe?

Alvin Roehr: I would say yes because that's how people want to be treated and that's how I like to be treated.

Joey Giangola: You look at maybe what has become a little more popular in the industry now and that is being a little more focused on profitability, we'll say, and just the amount of time you do spend on a particular case, right? How do you combat that, I guess, and say to your people, say, "Listen, we're going to do what it takes to make sure everybody understands what they need to understand"? But at the same time, you still have a business to run. How do you at the end of the day make it feasible for everybody to do what they need to do?

Alvin Roehr: We just do it. We take the time with each person. We have people come in here. It's ironic, and you probably understand this, but most of the people that are the most needy are the ones that pay us the least amount, and so we could easily just draw a line in the sand and say, "We're not going to do it," but I believe that those things go a long way and indirectly, we get a lot of benefit from doing it that way, and I think I have fought tooth and nail to keep from selling to a national broker because national brokers wouldn't allow me to do that. I believe because we're locally owned and we've got our own shop and I'm making the call, we're going to keep doing it as long as I'm here. I feel good about it. I feel good about getting up every day and going to work and that's big reason why.

Joey Giangola: Yeah. It's something that I do think again, it's a little bit lost because the way you mentioned it, you started at the kitchen table, and that's something that has sort of obviously faded out of, we'll say, relevance in terms of actually going to somebody's house and sitting down. Is there a way that, if you're talking to somebody that is looking to start their insurance journey, maybe they're a couple of years in, they're trying to do things their way, and they're trying to, again, make peace with what has worked and maybe where they need to go to find their own way in the industry. Is there something that you've sort of picked up along the way as things have sort of ebbed and flowed of the people that have maybe found success, the people that you brought into your agency potentially that have had to marry those two worlds together? Is there something that stood out to you?

Alvin Roehr: It had. The things that really have made me see what success comes with our industry, I mean, I started cold calling personal lines accounts when I started in the business 40 years ago, so calling people at home on their home phones, and that's how much things have changed. Today, I think the success I see from people is our guys go out and try to create relationships with people, so much more than going out and saying, "Hey, do you want to buy some insurance?", but they go out, they get to know them. In our business, people are looking for experts and they're looking for people that can hold your hand, and our people, they create that. We're not a pushy sales company. We're, "Let's go out, let's let those people do all the talking, and let us do the listening." That turns into something that's been very good for us. We're not advertising big. It's one call at a time and it's just really worked well.

We do a lot of support in the city where we take care of volunteering with our customers. We volunteer with Cincinnati, Ohio as much as we can. We give a lot of our time to be in a bigger part of the community. I think all those things go a long way. I keep hearing from in the industry of all the things that you're not supposed to be doing. I think we do almost all of them that you're not supposed to be doing them, but I think we've grown double digits every year since we've been in the business and it continues. As long as that's working for us, we're going to keep doing it.

Joey Giangola: That's the thing that is always coming into it. That's that thought, that tension of, like you said, the things that you're not supposed to do anymore, but yet you constantly continue to say, "Listen, doesn't matter." I'm always just baffled by sort of that, it works until it's working, right? Is there something that maybe you have had your eye on to say ...? Well, I guess there is anything new that you've added to the mix that you have maybe thought, "Oh, this is going to be beneficial to what," like you said, "to not doing those things that you're not supposed to do"? Is there anything that you have maybe seen we'll consider a marginally new tactic that has been successful for you guys?

Alvin Roehr: Well, I've been in my new business for 10 years. In the beginning, I was really the only sales guy, and soon after we started, I brought in a guy that never sold insurance before, and then I brought in another guy that was in the industry, but he never sold insurance before, so I had me supporting most of what we were trying to do in the beginning, and two young guys that were trying to learn the business, which they did learn, and they're doing pretty good right now. We recently brought in another established salesperson, which really jump-started us. Then I have two of my children working here and one of them is in sales We've got great salespeople. I'm able to share a few things that I feel worked for me, but I think each guy likes to choose their own path, do it their own way. Good salesman probably are a little bit stubborn in their way of doing things, so I'm always there to help.

I know that when I started, I sat with our top sales guy as much as I could and just listen to what he did and followed a lot of the things that he did. It was really growing your network, making your network bigger. It's not about selling the cheapest price and getting a product that does that. It's more of getting a lot of people to trust in you and holding on accounts. I mean, we probably, I know I have accounts 30 and 40 years that I've had written and they just stick with us because they're not looking for the cheapest thing. They're looking for somebody that's going to be there when something happens. That's what I preach over and over and over again is just being there when somebody needs you, I get a call on a Saturday night, I handle it. I get a call on a Sunday, I handle it. Most people shut their phones down and go enjoy it. Now, believe me, I enjoy everything, I do have a lot of fun in life, but I go on vacation, my phone's always there. Somebody calls me, I answer it. That's just the commitment that I've made.

Joey Giangola: Alvin, I'm trying to do the math here. You said you started up the new agency about 10 years ago with a few folks, you said you got some clients that are 30 or 40 years old, and then you also said before we started recording that you were in the sporting goods business before that. I need a little help making sense of the timeline of your, I guess, business career.

Alvin Roehr: Well, I'm about 100 right now, so that's how I can get it all done, but no, back in the '70s, I co-opted Cincinnati Insurance Company. I would work one quarter and then I'd go to school one quarter, so I count that on my resume. I actually did Colorado from '80 to '83 and started selling insurance in '83. I still have a lot of customers from '83 and '84 that I wrote and I wrote them maybe with a different, I was at a really big local firm. Then they sold out to a national firm in 2012. That's when I started my new company in 2012. I didn't want to be a national broker.

Joey Giangola: How has that sort of that experience informed what you're doing now, having been at the bigger place, started your new strap from the ground up, what were some of the things that were important to you to make sure that ...? I mean, we probably talked about a little bit of them, but because that is obviously a big part of where the industry's going, a lot of, let's say, consolidation and things like that, what are some of the things that you see of maybe if you had to give a message out to the folks that are maybe faced with that decision or, maybe again, starting their own journey, what have you seen being all the way through that process, and now, on your second leg?

Alvin Roehr: Well, the agency I was at was kind of like a big version of what I'm doing now. We had 30 salespeople and we just would go in there and we'd take care of people and we did it the old-fashioned way. Then in 2012, they sold to a national firm, and I wanted to continue to do it the old fashioned way when I'm talking about the differences, I think the biggest difference is when you call them versus when you call us, you might get a different person every time you call, and it's maybe not always going to be right here in Cincinnati, Ohio. That's the big difference. I mean, the big firms, they love to go after the huge accounts, the smaller $5,000 accounts, which make up a lot of our business. I mean, we like the big accounts, too, don't get me wrong, but we have relationships, and all of a sudden, a son of one of our customers said, "Hey, I'm opening up a pizza delivery shop. Can you help me?" We help him. We're not going out after that business directly, but we do help people when people need it.

Our firm is pretty cool because we have a lot of established, big-time producers in what I call a "boutique agency," so we've seen everything. We do business in 48 states, just my little firm, but we're still doing it the old-fashioned way. We're answering our phones. We give everybody our cell phones. It just works. We got to maybe have a few extra people as far as servicing goes, and we probably could make more money without them, but I believe that makes a difference for us is we just really hold everybody's hand as much as we can, and our customers love it.

Joey Giangola: Alvin, I'm not sure if you're giving yourself enough credit along the way here. Well, I guess, we'll save that for the end to decide, but I think you might be shorting yourself a little bit there. But I guess the question that I'm curious is, is when you, again, opened up shop in the new space, what did you guys want to focus on? What did you want to do business? What was the core focus of your clientele? Who did you really want to really go after and serve? Is there an area of the business that you find maybe works better for whatever reason for you?

Alvin Roehr: Well, our blend is 75% commercial, 25% personal. I love working with the personal, and I've really specialized in people that own more than one home, so we're doing stuff all over the country, all over the world in personal lines. That's one of the things we sell is if a person has a home and they buy a home in Florida, they don't want to have to find a new agent, they want to deal with us in Florida, so we've given them that ability. All the commercial people, they kind of look down at personal lines. Our personal lines has helped us develop some substantial commercial accounts, and truthfully, when you talk with an owner, they want to talk more personal than they do their business insurance. It's been a funny thing that I've learned.

Yeah, we're very, very big in personal lines down here, but we're great in commercial lines. Once again, we have relationships. We build on those relationships. We're not leading with a price, we're leading with, "Can you work with us and can we work with you?" I think it's a really cool thing. Most of our guys have been trained Sandler Training, if you're familiar with Sandler. It's basically relationship, relationship, relationship. You just get that relationship, and if a person trusts you, they'll do business with you, and if they don't, they won't. It doesn't matter what you charge. I mean, I just believe that in my soul, trying to impart that as much as I can to my people. My salespeople are all pretty good at that. I mean, yeah, we want to be competitive, we want to have the best price, but when we don't, what are we talking about? We're talking about bringing the whole picture to you. I think we do a pretty good job at that.

Joey Giangola: Yeah, so many questions there. I want to get back to, again, like you said, not having the best price and the conversations that go in there. Then at some point, there is like a breaking point, right, to where the price at some point matters, right? It's like, it doesn't matter how much they like you, it's just too much. But I think the question that I want to go first into is you mentioned about developing some nice commercial accounts out of those personal accounts and just their desire to want to talk personal business and building the relationships, right? It takes, I would say, a lot of patience in a lot of cases, and maybe where a less experienced agent might not have the patience to wait for the commercial to develop. Walk me through that. Take me inside as that develops for you, maybe with a good client that you've had, what have you found in that relationship-building process to just take a break, pause, and really have patience?

Alvin Roehr: Well, the problem with what you're asking me there is the people that we hire as new salespeople, you got to teach them that it's just going to take time, and the problem is how much time am I going to give them? As we walk through that little scenario, I mean, I'm telling my son all along, my son's just learning insurance, so he's not an expert. He's been doing this for about a year, came straight out of college, and into this industry, so learning our business, most people start working at an insurance company, and then come over and become a salesperson.

I had an account that I chased after. Actually, it was on my birthday. The renewal was on my birthday, and that's why it just stood out. 10 years trying to get their commercial business, which was at the time about a $50,000 account. On the 10th year, and the guy by now knew that it was my birthday, he said, "I'm going to give you a good birthday present this year. I'm going to let you handle our commercial insurance," and I was tickled, but it was literally 10 years. He said, "And oh, by the way, I would like you to handle all of our personal now, too," which by the way, was 300,000 in premium, so just don't know where these things are going to come from, and how they're going to happen.

The thing that I give him, I want everybody to be poised to sell at any one moment, but I also want them to be listening to what the people are saying because 90% of the time, your prospect will tell you what you need to do to sell them, and you ask them what's bothering them, most of the people would rather just say, "Hey, I got this thing. It's cheaper. It's better." That's not what they're looking for. They're looking for somebody that's going to do their certificates faster, or answer the phone, or handle claims better. But if you give them a chance to talk, they'll usually tell you what they need. I believe that and that's how I've run my life is that I just listen and want to give them what they need. It's really a simple business when you do that.

But the problem is, like you say, you get into some of these firms. If you're not successful in six months, you're on the street. I look for personalities. We do a lot of personality testing when we hire people. I mean, our most recent sales hire, he interviewed with us for two years, worked for an insurance company. He wanted to be in sales so bad and I just was not ready to start from scratch with another salesperson. But two years of diligently coming after us, I just said, "Hey, you're in." We hired him and he's coming out of the gate swinging and he's doing great.

It's an interesting thing, but I think consistently, you're going to hear the same message from me. Let's build the relationship. Let's not sell price. Like you said, there's some number that you got to be at. You can't be double or anything like that, but you don't always have to be less expensive than everybody else. You bring the value and you got to sell the value and if people appreciate the value, you get the business. I think that's my little secret sauce right there.

Joey Giangola: Yeah, if did want to bring it home a little bit on terms of that price and talking through that, is there something that, again, things that go a long way to helping people understand when price matters? Because like you said, a few bucks here, a few bucks there, people have been conditioned to blow those things out of proportion, and we as in the sales position, you've also, like you said, you feel you sort of default to, "Oh, here's something cheaper." How do you, again, I guess maybe have the patience and say, "Listen, this is not that big of a deal, I'll let you know when we get into something that's worthwhile"? What is that language that you like to use to get people to at least calm down a little bit, and again, trust you when dealing with price, and when it's too much to really bear?

Alvin Roehr: Well, that's a great question, and I have a million thoughts on it. The thing that I like when you start comparing price is these people, these contracts that we sell, one contract to the next, there's nothing in common with them. I mean, you got two completely different forms, and these people will think, "Okay, if they bear down and they're hiding all their numbers," and they're saying, "Okay, what is it for building? What is it for cars?" All they're looking for is a cheaper price. I teach them how to buy. I teach them what's important. I teach them why my auto form's better than their auto form.

Truthfully, at the end of the day, they're not going to remember anything you say about the insurance. They aren't. What I try to do is keep it as simple as I can. I pick about four or five areas that I know are of interest to them, simple things. Backup a sewer. I think we pay more claims on backup a sewer than anything else. Most of the forms that I'm competing against offer $5,000 backup a sewer. These people have finished basements, they have guitars on the walls, they have all these things down there that they never even understand if the people don't give them an opportunity to dig into their stuff and really do a job of comparing what we're offering versus what they have.

I know right away, and this has been probably the thing that freed me up the most, on my first call, I have a conversation with these people person-to-person on the same level. I just say, "Hey, look. It's going to take me a lot of time and effort to give a comparison to what you have. Do you have the ability to tell your current agent, 'If I bring you a better deal, that you can fire your current agent'?" That's the first question I ask. When they say, yes, I've got my first yes. If they say, no, one of the greatest things that ever happened is a person told me, "Well, I have an uncle that does my insurance." I stood up, I shook his hand. I thanked him for not making me go through all that. I said, "If anything ever changes on that, let me know." You want to know something? It did and I got the business.

There's a lot of power you get walking away from a sale that you know the guy's wasting your time. For me, that freed my life up, and I tell other people, "The first time you do that with a customer will be the first time that you really have control of what you're doing," because we don't need every sale. We want to get good people. We want to interview them. We don't want people that all they do is turn in claims and complain about the price. We want to get people that work well with us and do insurance the way we do insurance. It's a training program as far as I'm concerned and I learn about them and I learn what they want. You don't get them all, but I would say we get more than we probably should.

Joey Giangola: All right, Alvin. Fantastic stuff. I have three more questions for you, sir.

Alvin Roehr: All right.

Joey Giangola: The first one is, what is one thing you hope you never forget?

Alvin Roehr: Wow. Great question. I guess, never forget to be humble. This industry has been awesome to me. I've had some great successes over the years and I just don't ever want to forget what got me there and how people trusted in me. Truthfully, I'm paying them back as best I can every single day.

Joey Giangola: Now, on the other side of that, Alvin, what's one thing you still have yet to learn?

Alvin Roehr: I do have a tendency to look for the good in people, even though they got every sign of not being the kind of person you want to deal with. Walking away from those kind of people just makes your life, because when you don't, every single time, it backfires on you. When I deal with the people I like to deal with, it's fun to come to work. Love to come in and work on Saturdays and Sundays, knowing that I'm getting ready to hit Monday with nothing on my desk. As you see, I did a pretty good job today. I'll come in on Saturdays and Sundays for that reason. But yeah, it's dealing with the right people, dealing with the people that you really want to fight for, and walking away from when you know that they're not the right people. I make mistakes on that periodically, but I don't know. Is that okay? Does that sound ...?

Joey Giangola: I mean, I think it's all right, Alvin, as long as you're aware of it, right?

Alvin Roehr: Yeah.

Joey Giangola: Last question to you, sir. If I were to hand you a magic wand of sorts to reshape change, alter, speed up, really, any part of insurance, what is that thing, where is it going, and what's it doing?

Alvin Roehr: The industry has, like you said earlier, consolidated. One of the things that happens with insurance agencies is that they get these non-competes. I have a lot of friends that are working in dead-end agencies and they can't get out of it because they can't go three years without having an industry or having what they've learned in their lives, so I would like to have a magic wand to give these people the opportunity to go work for the people that they want to go work for. My old agency sold out. A lot of our top guys left right away and some got into other industries, some stuck it out. You should never have to work in a place that you don't enjoy. I try to make our place a place that everybody enjoys. If I could have a magic wand, it would be like they did in the college basketball this year. You have the portals that you can jump in and out of and go to the places you want to go to. I just hate the thought of being in a place that you don't like and you're not part of.

I mean, we're working right now and offering some ownership to some of my people. I got that opportunity back in 1987 to be an owner of a company. That's the greatest thing in the whole world to be a part of something and something that you work toward, and when they do well, you do better, and if they do worse, you got to pick it up, so the responsibility of being an entrepreneur is something that I would ask everybody in the world get an opportunity to get to if they can. I was lucky enough to get in this industry. I was not the best student in the world, but I was a hard worker, and hard work still pays off as far, as I'm concerned. There's my magic wand. Work hard and you get what you want. How about that?

Joey Giangola: Alvin, this has been fantastic, sir. I really appreciate it. We're going to leave it right there.

Alvin Roehr: Mkay. Thank you.