Why Serving People Near Your Passion Is the Best Strategy
Michael J. Vance, advisor for Hundley Batts & Associates, talks about having potential clients’ best interests in mind.
It's easy to get caught up in presenting a version of your agency that doesn't fully exist.
How could you not try to impress clients and potential carrier partners?
They couldn't possibly be interested in the hard truth that currently exists in the business.
Or just maybe that transparency is just what everyone is looking for.
Adam Augspurger, owner of Steadfast Insurance, talks about how he leans on the truth to set his agency free.
Joey Giangola: Mr. Adam Augspurger, how're you doing today, sir?
Adam Augspurger: Very well, Joey. It's great to see you.
Joey Giangola: Adam, is indeed good to see you as well. And I have to start here because why not? Is there something that you are glad was not around when you were a child for fear of what you and your friends may have done with said thing and technology or whatever?
Adam Augspurger: Yeah. I mean, Joey, it's got to be the obvious answer, the camera phone. Not just the camera phone, but then the ability within that phone to go ahead and immediately, without sleeping on it or considering any implications, broadcast it to the world. Kids make some poor choices, young people. I did, still do, try not to. But I'm fearful for that generation as my kids get older too, having that access to display their stupidity to the world immediately. Stupidity is probably a cruel word, but that poor decision. I don't know.
Joey Giangola: It's unfortunate that they have to live with that burden because I would imagine that it has to come back at some point in their life and say, oh, you did this thing. I'll take you one further. But yes, it's definitely the ability to record and broadcast. But I would say 100%, me and my friends would've had a YouTube reaction channel, just reacting to dumb stuff, and the stuff we would've said or just reacted to would've definitely prevented employment from somebody at one point in time.
Adam Augspurger: Right. Yeah. It's not just the ability to capture and broadcast it, but it's that long lasting, it's not going away. The Google machine doesn't forget.
Joey Giangola: No, it certainly does not. So I have to take that over then to the world of insurance. And is there something that, I don't want to say you're glad didn't exist back then, but is there something that maybe you feel should exist today that we haven't quite got there yet?
Adam Augspurger: Interesting. I think the industry, especially now more than ever, and that's probably going to remain true, if you ask me in a year, I'd probably still say now more than ever, but there's more evolution of technology and more stuff available. And I don't want to say it's missing because I'm going to immediately get 1,400 sales emails from the people who already have it, but just the ease of connecting everything together. I've got 17 pieces of technology and yeah, there are these ways and this can go with that and flow that way, but to do it well and to do it easily, I feel like that is still kind of missing. It's that overall one approach. One thing that can do it all would be great.
I'm stealing this from somebody. I don't remember who, but I feel like I get $50 a month to death. I've got subscriptions coming out my ears for all kinds of stuff. I'm not even sure what half of it is. I probably need it and I'm probably not using it to its full capabilities. That's what's frustrating. The last piece is what's frustrating to me. I'm not using it for all that it can do anyways. But to have it all, a one solution that makes sense. I mean, I know there are companies out there that say, "You can do it all with us," but it's more than my mortgage and it includes 400 things I don't want or need. So it's like, yeah, maybe you've got it all, but then we get into affordability and stuff like that. But yeah, I think it's that talk together thing. I feel like we should be doing better with that as an industry.
Joey Giangola: Yeah. And I mean, it's definitely a common thing that I think we all sort of feel from time to time. And I guess I'll ask this question then, because you are, we'll say relatively new in your journey of solo insurancing yourself and you've kind of had the ability to put things together that could theoretically talk to each other more easily than in a situation where they've been one bad decision stacked on top of another, has that felt better to build that from scratch or do you still feel that even starting with a blank slate, it's still a frustrating process?
Adam Augspurger: I think it's still frustrating, but for different reasons. In a different scenario, the frustration is I want to do it this way, but the team, the boss, the company makes me do it that way. I don't have that frustration. I can do it however I want to do it and I can pick it all. But then I get into death by inaction or whatever that phrase is. I'm so scared. I'm going to make the wrong decision that I make no decision and then I need to bat work backwards into what are the actual needs. And then I have that. And I've made mistakes, technology mistakes. And fortunately, I'm agile enough, we'll say, to be able to course correct fairly easily. Yeah. I mean, I think it's definitely a better problem, I guess, but it's still in that way a problem.
Joey Giangola: Analysis by paralysis, I believe, is maybe what you were looking for.
Adam Augspurger: That's absolutely what I was after. Yes.
Joey Giangola: So I can't....
Adam Augspurger: Or paralysis by analysis.
Joey Giangola: Maybe. Yeah. That's probably better. Yeah. That's probably better.
Adam Augspurger: Go with take two.
Joey Giangola: Yeah. Team effort there. So I can't not ask this question then. What is, I guess, maybe one of the bigger mistakes that you have made and how did you find your way around it in terms of, hey, caution, red flashing lights for anybody sort of about to follow a similar path?
Adam Augspurger: Yeah. I mean, I think A, it's shiny stuff. That's probably number one. I see shiny things and I'm like, got to have that, need it, want it now. And so you end up kind of blowing some money on things that are really cool, but you don't need. And that has definitely been a mistake. But I think part of it too is just taking the time once you are looking at a specific piece. Let's say an agency management system. Take the time to get into them, do the demos, do the meetings, do all the stuff to the point where you're just exhausted with the information from the different management system companies because it's a big hassle to switch, and I've switched and it's still not perfect, but it's better and it's better for these reasons.
But it's kind of like that you don't know what you don't know. So if you just take the first demo you get of a product and you're like, wow, that's really cool. Well, of course it is. That's their demo. It's going to work perfectly. They're going to give you the examples and the scenarios and the samples that are the best, but that's not necessarily reality. And so then you find out, well, me, my needs, what do I have? So the more I've kind of made those mistakes, I guess, the more time I spend on product evaluation before I actually do it. It's not see this shiny thing and go buy it. It's see this shiny thing, really think about how it's going to work in my day to day and my workflow and my processes and stuff like that. And then also search out its competitors so you can see maybe what else is out there rather than just grabbing the first shiny thing. The other stuff's shiny too. Maybe it's a better shiny for you.
Joey Giangola: Yeah, for sure. I hope maybe you're this guy. I want to envision that you have a plaque up on your wall that says best decision made as agency owner, and then you sort of swap it out as you make another one. Do you have something that's sitting on that plaque right now in terms of what you consider maybe the best decision you've made in your young agency ownership career?
Adam Augspurger: Yeah. That is an interesting piece. And I think it is and I hope it remains carriers. Carrier relationship. As a scratch agency starting out, you don't have a ton of options. I like to say companies want fed and they should. That's business and whatnot. Profitability and all those important things. But you really got to look at what are you doing as far as risk appetite, stuff like that. And then as a young agency or a scratch agency starting out, if you are going to join a market access, an aggregator, whatever the hot word is for the companies that kind of let you leverage buying power, that decision is extremely important. Those contracts are all different and they offer different things and that decision can very well impact the health and really, viability of your business and even what you really even own in a tremendous way.
And I feel like the decisions that I've made, and I kind of knew that going forward, I got some great advice as well from our local association was very helpful and just talking through with different carrier and carrier partners and relationships and stuff like that, I feel like those are probably my best decisions, if I were going to kind hang that up there. And I hope that plate stays there. Even if the relationships change over time, I hope that's still the piece because, I mean, while I work for the customers and not the carriers, at the same time, that relationship is what allows me to serve those customers. And I do want partnership. I want a relationship. I don't want to be agent number two, three, four, seven, eight.
And it's difficult sometimes because I'm small. I mean, realistically, I'm nobody. And so I don't have a big fourth generation agency worth book of business to leverage and say, no, give me this. I don't have that. I don't think you need it either, but you do have to then pay attention to that stuff. And I think if you were, let's say, starting out, that market access company aggregator, that decision is crucial. Because that's one, it's just so difficult to unwind or change.
Joey Giangola: Well, that's a great point. Like you said, don't beat yourself up too much, Adam. But because you are, we'll say, maybe not able to get certain people's attention in certain rooms, is there something that you would maybe say helped unlock those conversations that did get somebody's attention? Again, after going through that entire process, did you see something that stood out to you in terms of you getting better, sort of a success response rate, to at least bringing certain people to the table?
Adam Augspurger: Yeah. I think, well, A, piece of it is it's that relational side of it. It's who do you know? That's always important. I did have the benefit of before starting Steadfast, I worked in the industry for another agency as a producer. So I had some relationships, which is great. And to know people is, like so many things, it's very important. But even if you don't know them, when you meet them, when you start building that relationship, I think you've got to be authentic and you've got to be always honest, of course. But I think it's helped me that I'm almost overly honest sometimes. I'm not going to promise you a bazillion dollars in production this year because it's just not realistic. And I think that if you have good conversations and kind of build the relationship around shared values, shared growth targets and goals, as far as maybe the quality or type of business that you're writing or that you intend to write or that you want to write with said carrier, and it's being that authentic reflection of that in what you're actually doing as well as what you're saying, I think that stuff goes a long way.
I very openly tell company partners, I'm not going to be your top producer, which people usually want to impress the carrier and get a better contract and do all this stuff. I've never sold a policy based on what I'm going to get. It's about what my customer gets. And if you have something that is going to partner really well for my customer, that's what I want at the end of the day. But it's that representation piece. And that's the part of the relationship, all of that background right there was just to get to this, is that I want the companies that I represent to be proud to have me represent them, whether it's the type of risk, the quality of business, the person that I am, the way we advertise, the way we market, the way we show up in the marketplace, all of those things. I might not be your top producer, but I'm not going to give you headaches, hopefully. I mean, these are all goals. Maybe I am a headache. I don't know. But I don't want to give you headaches. I want to represent your brand well in the marketplace. And I think maybe that will forgive the sin of not being a top producer, so to speak.
Joey Giangola: I'm not sure where the question is here, but I'm going to give it a shot. If somebody maybe has a hard time dialing up the authenticity or maybe removing their filter, if they feel too guarded from times, and they feel maybe it's holding them back from, again, getting to a certain place with a carrier, whether it's a client, you obviously don't have that problem, it's been slow to pick up, but is there anything that you've maybe, in moments of reflection, have picked up on why it might be easier for you?
Adam Augspurger: Yeah. I mean, I think part of it does go back to just growing up. I've just kind of always been that way. And it's because I think I was afforded, I don't want to say a safe space, but I've always, I think, been encouraged to be me. I also think that I've focused from very early on, I'm trying to do the next right thing. If that is guiding your conversations with the carriers, say it. Don't feel bad saying it. They might disagree and that's fine too. Contrary to popular belief, you can disagree with people and still have a good relationship in different areas and topics. Obviously, there are going to be some fundamental things that have to line up.
But to your point, maybe a quick tip of how do I get more comfortable being authentic in those conversations? Maybe change the venue. I call it the uniform, the insurance agent uniform. Blazer, button up shirt, khakis, penny loafers. It's the uniform. Don't wear the uniform. Ask them to go to the driving range and hit golf balls. You don't have to be a good golfer. But you're standing there and you're doing something different. Go to Top Golf. Go putt-putt. Everything's golf here. What else could we do? We can do other stuff. An outdoor beer garden kind of setting might be better than conference room table. That conference room table is very traditional, buttoned up, but it also, I think, can bring a lot of anxiety for people just around this is so serious. It's so important. You can have the same conversation sitting on a patio somewhere. And I think that may help people who it doesn't come maybe so naturally to. Not to say that this is the greatest thing about my personality either, Joe. Sometimes we just blurt things out and have to explain a little bit more detail.
Joey Giangola: I mean, I wasn't [inaudible] drawbacks.
Adam Augspurger: I mean, I think a quick tip though would be maybe a change of venue could help.
Joey Giangola: I would go for maybe a Dave and Busters. If there's still just a classic arcade around maybe. Nothing like talking company appointment over a game of Mortal Kombat. Maybe little symbolic potentially. Who knows?
Adam Augspurger: I like it. And people might not think of that. But again, it's think outside that box. I mean, the company guys and gals, they're also tired of sitting in the conference room. Everybody is excited to be back in person, but at the same time, that conference room does have a different feel and it can, I think, maybe dictate a different conversation and certainly comfort level.
Joey Giangola: As you sit here today in the agency, what's one thing that has wildly surpassed your expectations, whether it be positive or negative, that you maybe didn't expect to find yourself in?
Adam Augspurger: So from a positive aspect, I am absolutely blown away at the referral network that I have. I'm not the bobble guys. Those guys just crushed the referral thing. They are doing podcasts on how to do referral stuff. I'm so flattered at the number of people that refer us to their friends and family. And it's so encouraging, it's so invigorating. We're very grateful. It's honoring to be able to serve these people because what we do is important. Insurance agents have whatever reputation insurance agents have and that's fine. Maybe we've earned it, maybe we haven't. But at the end of the day, we are recommending, thank you Dr. Billy Williams, but we're here to recommend the policies and the coverage that's going to best protect our clients' quality of life should a claim occur. That's what we're about here. And the idea that local banker down the street thinks that I will best do that for his clients is phenomenal to me.
And it doesn't surprise me, I guess, to your point in that, whoa, why would he refer me? I'm not capable. I think we do a great job. It's just the amount of support that we've gotten is just incredible. That, and I don't know how far you want to go into other branches of our business, but my wife joining our business from the ground up with me and doing her stuff is kind of what we call it. But she sells different lines of insurance that I do and she's just a rock star. I asked her very early in the planning stages for a little bit of help just because I needed a little bit of help and instead, she's an icon. So that's been awesome to see.
Joey Giangola: Well, I'm glad you brought her up and I'm thankful because I would hate for you to have to go home and not have mentioned her during this entire thing because that probably would have been worse for you than me. But yes, no. Fantastic stuff. Adam, I have three more questions for you. And the first one is what's one thing that you hope you never forget?
Adam Augspurger: Servant leadership. I do want to be a leader. I do want to make a difference. I do want to impact the business, my clients, my wife, our coworker, people positively, but with a servant's heart. I want to be metaphorically, and I'll do it, but metaphorically be that guy cleaning the bathroom and leading the charge. I think that goes just so far as a mentality. If you're just serving people, let it carry you. And I hope I don't ever forget that. I mean, that's the way I was raised and I do believe that's a cornerstone of what we do in our business as well. Insurance policies are marketed on TV mostly by very large companies as commodities. It's all the same. Get the cheapest one. And I genuinely truly believe they're not. Insurance coverage is different. The language is different. The coverage matters. Usually, doesn't matter until it really matters. But the idea that we are just serving people in that way, educating them, helping, all of those things. I am not a great salesman. I like to educate, I like to help.
Joey Giangola: Now on the other side of that, what's one thing you still have yet to learn?
Adam Augspurger: One thing I've yet to learn. I mean, other than your technical stuff, I haven't quite learned to make the leap into new things as quickly as maybe I'd like to. I'm probably a bit more reserved and a little bit slower on the uptake for whether it's hiring, whether it's some type of marketing initiative, whether it's some type of technology piece. I would like to act a little bit quicker knowing I'm going to make mistakes, but at the same time, just kind of leap in more. And I haven't really learned how to do that and still sleep. So I would like to learn to be a little bit more maybe proactive in that regard.
Joey Giangola: All right, Adam, 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's that thing, where's it going, and what's it doing?
Adam Augspurger: I would like to change the overall message of our industry. And it's part of that piece where the big guys are spending the billions on marketing to get cheap, cheap, cheap. And I do understand that approach and I understand it works, which is why they're doing it. But I think that we miss just a lot of the value that comes from what we do. The value of good coverage, the value of adequate coverage, the peace of mind that it brings, it's not just a race to the bottom. And in any industry, that doesn't benefit the industry, kind of racing to that who can do it the cheapest thing. It is important. Don't get me wrong. I want to save everybody money if I can. But that is always in our business, thank you, Bob Ross, a happy accident.
It's because we've got the right carrier mix for the risk that we're looking at. It's not because I'm pulling stuff off the proposal because I need to be $10 cheaper than the next guy. It's about the value in the coverage that we're bringing. And the messaging just from a global standpoint is not that. And if I could wave the wand, I don't know how to fix that because that messaging does work and it does drive revenue and profit is the business model and all those things. But I mean, if I got a magic wand, that would be near the top of my list is just to change the messaging around insurance and what it's for and why you should get X, Y, or Z. It's not just because this one's 15% less. No. But what did you give up?
Joey Giangola: Adam, this has been fantastic. I'm going to leave it right there.
Adam Augspurger: Excellent. Well, thank you, Joe. Joey. Joey G.