In a recent article, we shared Hazel’s story on how she sold her insurance agency, HB Resources, through one of our agency perpetuation solutions. This solution allowed Hazel, her employees, and her customers to ultimately reap the benefits in a number of different areas like retaining their brand, their employees, and their customers. Through working with us at OLI, Hazel ultimately found a solution that maintained the brand identity and integrity of her agency while remaining connected to her employees and customers.
Beware of a Poor Exit Strategy as an Insurance Agency Owner
Many insurance agency owners end up throwing an exit strategy together that isn’t a good fit for their future or for their employees or customers. And worse, in some situations, they work with a bad partner that preys on someone who’s just looking to exit. As an agency owner, you’re contemplating how to step back from your life’s work, your employees, customers, and your overall brand identity. This is where we found Hazel with her agency HB Resources, and why she was looking for something different. Allow us to introduce you to Denise Caldwell, who took over operations for Hazel’s agency.
An Interview with the New Insurance Agency Owner
We recently got to sit down with Denise Caldwell and asked her some questions about her story and experience through this whole process of helping transition Hazel out and taking over as the new head decision-maker. Denise has been working in her role as the new agency owner of HB Resources for some time now. Here’s Denise’s story.
What was your background & experience in the industry, and what led you to be able to take this opportunity to be Hazel’s successor?
“I started my career in the insurance industry on the P&C (property and casualty) side. I worked my way up through account management and into sales for about 20 years. I then moved over to the Small Group Health Benefits side and was doing account management to get some leadership experience. But my heart has always been in sales and being a producer as an agent or a broker. So the opportunity came when I met John Prichard from OLI, and we realized we were a good match to work with each other in serving insurance agencies.”
What has it been like helping Hazel transition out as the owner, and you getting plugged in as the new owner?
“Things have gone really well. Hazel was really happy with the transition and she is still involved.* I also realized that this agency worked without a central management system. So some of the things we want to do include implementing new technology solutions, as well as to provide an IT infrastructure that provides more flexibility and efficiencies for our staff, including working remotely. That and creating relationships with our staff and existing clients has allowed us to take the next steps to grow the business.”
*[Editor’s Note: It is not necessary for agency owners to stay on and support the new leader]
Some owners may worry about retention of their customers during or after the transition. Can you speak to that?
“The retention has actually gone really well and I think that it’s been because of the setup we implemented. Hazel and I worked really closely for the first 3-6 months with her still coming into the office regularly. Within that time frame, we went and visited every major client and had established a relationship leading to a smooth handoff. From there I was able to then step in and start working with those clients directly and further build that relationship. We wanted to make the leadership change as seamless as possible, which was easier because we kept the same name and the same staff, so our clients didn’t really feel any tension, worry, or concern that things would negatively change for them. We didn’t lose any accounts with the leadership change. And we are really proud to say that.”
Through the OLI partnership, you’re now able to outsource and cross-sell additional lines of coverage. How has that helped grow the brand?
“It was very attractive to me because of my P&C background, and I was already licensed which made it even easier. This OLI partnership was very exciting to me because we’re able to round out our groups and offer clients all kinds of other services. It’s nice to be able to offer so much more to our clients and have the support from great systems and expert professionals.”
How has the interaction been between you and the existing employees, and were there any steps that were taken to help build or strengthen that relationship?
“Yes, the interaction was very important. What I appreciated about Hazel, is that she really cared about her clients and their future, and she cared about employees too. She has had long-term staff here, and we were very sensitive to that in making sure those employees would transition over well and that we would take good care of them. One of the things we did early on was establishing our employee manual, establishing some policies and procedure guidelines, and also increasing benefits.”
What else has OLI provided, which has helped with your transition into the agency and into this role?
“When owning or running a small agency, you only have so many resources and so much money and time. However, one thing that Heffernan and OLI have together, is providing those other resources we can tap into that a normal smaller agency wouldn’t have the access to, let alone able to afford. We used to focus on serving just small businesses, but now, with OLI and Heffernan, we have the ability to help larger clients. Thanks to OLI/ Heffernan, we now have access to enterprise level benefits like payroll, banking, and HR & Legal services. We are actually working with a large client right now, and it wouldn’t be possible if it were not for OLI’s partnership with Heffernan. It’s a win for both of us.”
Any other comments you’d like to share about your experience with OLI?
“Having the guidance and support from OLI has been really helpful. And working with the OLI Team to help us tap into what makes us unique and highlight that to our clients and prospects has been really special. The support at OLI has been tremendous.”
We Take Pride in Serving Agency Owners During an Important Time in Their Business
As you could see from Denise’s story, HB Resources was in an interesting situation with helping Hazel open the next chapter in her life and bringing Denise in as the new agency leader. By working with us, we were able to provide Denise and Hazel with the tools and resources to be able to take what Hazel built, and not only just continue to run that agency, but also expand and grow it while maintaining the staff and the customer base.
Through our resources and support we added another level of client retention to HB Resources, and helped them with everything from payroll, to websites, to agency management systems, and much more. If you’re ready to discuss leaving your insurance business, let’s connect. Or if you want to still retain some ownership and work for the agency, we have strategies and solutions you will definitely like. Please contact us to start the conversation.