Even with the best intentions, it's easy to get lost behind automation buildup and fancy insurance lingo.

All of which reduce your reliability to the people you need to feel related to the most.

Sometimes less is more and a simple stream of curiosity is all you need to keep the relationship growing.

Luis Leal, owner of Leal Insurance Services, talks about how he's tried hard to make sure he's as close to his clients as needed.

Joey Giangola: Mr. Luis Leal, how you doing today, sir?

Luis Leal: I'm good man. Thanks for having me on.

Joey Giangola: Luis, I have to know this before we really go too far. Is there a word that when you hear somebody say it, you feel like it should automatically trigger them getting hit with a pie in the face?

Luis Leal: Getting hit with a pie in the face? Moist.

Joey Giangola: Okay, yeah, I can understand that. Just because you don't like the way it sounds.

Luis Leal: Yeah, it's one of those things, I think it's one of those ASMR things, and I think a lot of people feel the same way when they hear that word.

Joey Giangola: Yeah, I can definitely can send you in the wrong direction for sure. For me, it's bespoke. I feel like somebody that says that word, they're trying to say something that they could easily say with a different word and I don't appreciate it, because I don't know what it means half the time and I just feel like there's an easier choice there. Luis, I think the reason I ask is because I'm curious, we often are accused of over-complicating things sometimes in insurance in the way that we speak to people. Is there a word or phrase or a way that you communicate with people that you do business with that you've made a concerted effort to not sound a certain way, to talk in a certain way? Is there something that you've always tried to eliminate from your vocabulary to make it easier for people?

Luis Leal: Yeah, it's easy to talk insurance-ese, anything that sounds very insurancey like claimant or even as simple as insured. People don't realize that they are the insured. And I think us as agents, we get caught up in that policy language because anybody that's interested in policy language or nerds out on policy language like I tend to do, we want to take those words and sometimes we want to sound smarter than we are. I certainly do and use that with people outside of the industry and sometimes it falls on deaf ears I think. You end up having to over explain yourself more than you normally would have if you just talk to a customer like a normal person.

Joey Giangola: Has anybody ever gotten mad at you for saying something? Have you accidentally just slipped into that sort of thing? They just, "Man, Luis, I don't know what you're saying, man. Can you slow down?"

Luis Leal: I don't think that anyone's gotten so upset where they were throwing things at me. But yeah, especially in an email, I might have said something in a way that somebody just didn't understand and they'll reply back, hey, I don't really understand what this means. Can you dumb it down for me? You just have to take a step back and be, all right, let me explain it like a normal person like I'm having a conversation with a friend as opposed to an agent to a client kind of relationship.

Joey Giangola: How much of that do you think holds us back in some respects? Again, like you said, breaking down those language barriers because again, it's something that we always get accused of. Is there anything that you feel passionately about that we could maybe do to slow down and collectively take a breath and maybe replace a couple words? Do you have some favorite substitutes or anything?

Luis Leal: That's a good question. I'm really passionate about small business owners. So one of my specialties is dealing with specifically is contractors and anybody who knows anything about that market. Now I'm talking about really small contractors, probably minimum premium $2,500 a year guys, they might be doing a $100, $150,000 a year, they might have two employees. This market, the guys in this market are so focused on running or doing the work of their business. They're not business owners. They're not business savvy a lot of the times. And so it's very easy for us as insurance agents I think to talk about things like general liability and premium audit. Using words like that they're like, what does that cover me for? What does general liability insurance do? And it's a little misleading because general liability doesn't mean that you're covered generally for insurance, there's a lot of things that aren't covered in the general liability policy.

Luis Leal: And then things like premium audit, they're like, what the hell is a premium audit? What does that mean? How does it work? Why is it required? Those kinds of things. So I try to do a good job of getting ahead of those questions and really trying to break it down. One of the reasons that I love ChatGPT so much is because it actually does help dumb things down a little bit. If you're familiar with the technology, it's a really cool piece of technology, it's AI technology. You can go in and put in a random question and it'll spit out a random answer and then if you don't understand it, you can actually say something like, dumb it down for me and it'll give you a different answer for what it just finished typing out. So it's really cool. So for agents out there who are struggling to find different ways to explain an answer to a question or translate insurance ease to more plain English, that might be a really good resource for you.

Joey Giangola: All right, Luis, you skyrocketed to the front of technology, bleeding edge here. We're going to come back to that in one second because I can't leave it ignored, but I think the more interesting thing that came out of that is talking about the language and being relatable. So is beyond just the words that you say, like you said, talking about small business owners, contractors that are in it more or less, like you said, them really focusing on their business per se. Do you have any tips, tricks, things that you do to be more relatable? To be, again, the guy sitting at the end of the bar or whatever, having a conversation with these guys, is there something that you try to intentionally focus on to bring yourself down and have a conversation where they feel you're just one of them?

Luis Leal: Yeah, I never forget where I came from. So I've been a business owner for 12 years now, and it's the further and further away you get from that, it can be easier to distance yourself from those startup things. A really good example for me is I started, I had very limited experience in insurance first of all, I had two and a half years at a captive agency before jumping ship. I left May 31st, started my agency on July 31st. So within 60 days I had my office up and running, but I didn't know what I was doing. I was coming from the captive world. I thought I had it all figured out and I didn't. So I had $7,000 in a savings account when I first started and I thought, oh, I had this great plan that I thought I could stretch it out for six months once renewal started to kick in.

Luis Leal: The great Mike Tyson says, "Everybody has a plan until you get punched in the face." That's exactly what happened to me, that $7,000 savings account was gone in three weeks. And so I do my best to remember those struggles that I had when I first started, that's number one. I think number two is I am so curious about other people's stories that I love to ask questions about them and their business, how they got into the business that they're in, how they got started, what they're passionate about, what keeps them in the business, just really building that relationship with them, building that rapport with them and commiserating over those same struggles that I had 12 years ago. And even somewhat to this day, while the struggle might be different or it might look different, I'm still struggling as a business owner. And if you're not, I think you're lying to yourself.

Luis Leal: The third thing that I'll say to that is I will try my best to get out of that insurance agent role and really just partner with them, come alongside them as a fellow business owner and not necessarily talk about insurance, but hey, this kind of thing helped me when I was going through this same struggle and here's some great tips and tools that helped me and hopefully will help you. So just relating to them in that sense and really pushing insurance to the back burner. It's not something for me that has to be a sale right away. I'd much rather build a relationship with a customer than sell a policy on the first visit.

Joey Giangola: Yeah, that's definitely always that curiosity to just understand what it is that brings them to your door. And sometimes that maybe gets overlooked and some of the information collection that creates that little anxiety like do I have everything? And you overlook it. I guess I have to get back to this because you mentioned it, but let's talk about a guy that's been in it for a while looking for still the new thing and how we might communicate, interact, how we might leverage ourselves in the future with technologies that are just barely being able to understand, scratch the surface of, is this common for you to consider every opportunity, whereas people are maybe looking for reasons not to try something new?

Luis Leal: Yeah, I think if you're not learning or growing, you're dying. So I'm not necessarily saying I've got to be on the leading edge of technology every single time. I want to keep my finger on the pulse. I want to know what the new piece of tech is and how it might help my agency, how it might help a different business owner. I also want to caution people because it can actually put a barrier between you and the customer as an agent. So I'll give you a really good example. I have a CRM, it has some really awesome automation, most of which I've built out myself, some of which I've had some input with other agent owners and even some of the CRM company that we use. What will happen sometimes is I rely on automation to reach out to customers for certain things. But what I forget to do sometimes is remember that sometimes I've already had a conversation with the customer and if I forget to on to the CRM and turn off that piece of automation, it's a redundant thing that goes out to the customer.

Luis Leal: It'll be an email or a text message asking them something that we've already had a conversation about. And so the customer will likely be confused and will send me an email or a text saying, hey, we just talked about this the other day. Why am I getting this email? Automation is a great thing, but it's got its place. And I think that the same of most technologies is there's a lot of great pieces of technology out there, but it certainly has its place and time in the agency.

Joey Giangola: Yeah, automation it's actually easier to start than it is to stop. That's always people always underestimate that aspect of it. Again, like you said, you've been in that for a while, you're always looking for new things, but is there something that you maybe have put a focus on this year to say, maybe I do need to get better at that? Is there something that you feel like you're ready to finally approach?

Luis Leal: I'm always interested in how best to, what I want to say is I want to continue to improve the overall client experience. How can we get better in that? There are things that we've done over the last year, two years, to improve that customer experience that actually aren't working out. So we're actually removing some of those barriers between the customer and our office to try to really improve and enhance that customer experience. So there's some technology that we're taking out because number one, we're realizing that our customers really aren't interested in it, and number two, it creates a barrier that just doesn't need to be there. So we're going to really hone in particular those two processes that I'm thinking of over the next four to six months. At least that's my immediate goal for 2023. And then also another goal that we have is hiring. My agency has struggled in that area quite a bit, and so we're going to be on the lookout for some new team members this year.

Joey Giangola: As you've, like you said, gone through that process of hiring and maybe struggled with that, what have you learned in the failures and the things that you haven't gotten right and what do you hope to maybe adjust and refocus on to adjust that?

Luis Leal: I've read some books recently. One in particular, Patrick Lencioni is a great author on the ideal team member, I think that's the name of his book actually. One of the things that I've done in the past, a few times too many is I hire too quickly. I don't really get to know the person to make sure that they're the right person for the right seat. So I'm going to slow down my hiring process. I'm going to put some more things in place, get some assessments put in there that will help me to really find the right candidate. I'm actually considering even bringing in an outside consultant to help me in that process as well. And to spend a little more time and money, to be quite honest with you in hiring the right person. So slowing down that process, but also on the flip side of that, if someone is not working out for office, if they're not the right person, I don't want to say that I'm going to be quick to pull the trigger and fire them immediately, but certainly be more proactive and more quick to help them really figure out what it is that we need them to be doing. And if then they're not the right fit for the person, either find a different role for them in the agency where they might excel or just move them out of the agency completely.

Joey Giangola: Luis, so you mentioned a big focus as contractors and things like that. Is there anybody that you're maybe looking to expand the base to or level up to, even outside of that? Who are you looking to go after for this year? Do you like to stay in your lane? Or how do you approach branching out and looking for maybe a newer client or something like that?

Luis Leal: Yeah, I think we're really good in this space, in the small contractor space. I really enjoy it. I think there's a lot of business to be had there. So I really want to focus in on that market this year. If there's another concentration that we'll go after, it'll be habitation risks, more property investors, that kind of thing that we'll do this year. But there is a lot of competition going after the small contractors. But what's happening is we're seeing a tide change in the sense that these contractors are going after contracts or they want to work with bigger contractors or bigger builders who are requiring certain things that most retail agents don't understand. They don't know the wording, they don't know how to read the contract requirements, and they can't get those contract requirements met with the current policies. I'm really focused on content creation for around that subcontractor market. We're really hitting that market pretty hard. I'm going to get better at the subcontractor market, the smaller sub guys and maybe start making moves into the property investor side.

Joey Giangola: Now, Luis, for everybody at home, not only do you like to insure contractors, but you also like to employ them. For anybody that is watching at home, do you have any tips for hiring a contractor for a remodel and as just so they don't think you belong on an EMC version of hoarders or anything in terms of your office?

Luis Leal: Yeah, so the funny thing is, so as a side hustle, if you will, I actually am a property investor myself, and so I've got contractors that I work with directly. I'm in the process of remodeling my own home. So there's a mess behind me because my home office is being used as storage currently. But yeah, obviously the smart thing you do when you're hiring a contractor is make sure that they have liability insurance first and foremost. One thing that I think is so overlooked by homeowners in particular is making sure that these subcontractors have workers' comp insurance. The reason it's overlooked, especially in my home state of Texas, is because business owners are not required to have workers' comp insurance by law. In most other states they are. You got to remember that if a contractor employee is hurt while on the homeowner's property, there's a small chance, even if it is a small chance that the homeowner could be called into a lawsuit over that injury and that's just going to suck for the homeowner.

Luis Leal: I would recommend that at the very least, your contractor is going to have general liability insurance as well as worker's comp insurance. If you're getting them to build out a pergola, for instance, in your backyard, and they're designing the pergola, make sure that they have contractors air and omission coverage, because if you don't and something happens, water starts getting into your home because of how the pergola was built, a lot of times you're not going to find coverage for that on the general liability side because they design the thing, and a lot of times, contractor E&O is excluded from general liability coverage. So we do our best to set up our clients for success. We do our best to help mitigate risks to them as the contractor, but also protect their customers. And so that's what we preach every day, and sometimes it falls on deaf ears and sometimes it hits home.

Joey Giangola: I guess if all of your other lead sources fail Luis, you can always just hire a contractor every week for a tiny little job and ask them if they have insurance, then you [inaudible 00:17:28] policy.

Luis Leal: Yeah, that's true. That's absolutely true.

Joey Giangola: If all things don't work out for you, I think you'll be all right though. All right Luis, I got three more questions for you, sir and the first one, very simply, what is one thing you hope you never forget?

Luis Leal: One thing I hope I'll never forget, so I'm doing a lot of introspective over the last quarter of the year, as most people do I think going into a new year, one thing that has hit home for me is to remember to choose joy. One in particular way and I'm trying to look for my note on it because I didn't want to forget it, but one particular way that I have done that is, let me see here, I'm getting it, here we go, is you can never protect yourself from the pain, but you can deprive yourself of the joy in the attempt to protect yourself from the pain. I have a really good way of keeping people at arm's length, building up walls, and a lot of times that'll protect me from feeling any pain if someone hurts me personally. The flip side of that is that I also don't get to experience full joy when I get to interact with someone on a pretty intimate level. And so yeah, I hope I never forget that. It's probably not a answer that you were looking for in terms of insurance, but it is what it is.

Joey Giangola: There are zero expectations here, but I will say that's probably top five answers of all time for that question. So congratulations, sir.

Luis Leal: Awesome. Thank you.

Joey Giangola: On the other side of that, let's see what you got for this one. What's one thing you still have yet to learn?

Luis Leal: Oh, I don't know what I don't know. So I'm constantly curious. Gosh, what I don't know? I don't know how to play bass guitar and I see you have some guitars behind you, Joey. Maybe we can talk about some lessons after.

Joey Giangola: Anything's possible, Luis. You always need to expand your horizon, so for sure.

Luis Leal: That's right.

Joey Giangola: All right Luis, 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 is it going and what's it doing?

Luis Leal: I would love to see more agents be able to quote, bind an issue, excess and surplus lines without waiting two days, three days to hear back from an underwriter. I would absolutely love that.

Joey Giangola: All right, Luis, this has been fantastic, sir. I'm going to leave it right there.

Luis Leal: Thanks for the opportunity, man. I appreciate you having me on.