Key Tips for Young Agents to a Successful Perpetuation Plan

The dream for many young agents is to be a partner in or own their own agency.  There is no better time than now to act on this opportunity. Act quickly but act intentionally to set yourself (and your family) up for an amazing career and lifestyle. 

We have heard year after year for what seems like the last decade plus that the average age of an independent insurance agency owner is mid-60’s.  We have also heard that because of this, there will be a major leadership gap to fill as these agency owners transition into retirement. 

There is no better time than now for young agents to show up, step up and jump on this opportunity.  But how do you do this?  When exactly is the right time?  Where to turn?  These questions (and perceived hurdles) can sometimes prevent one from acting on their dreams.  I am here to help you answer these questions and jump the hurdles to set you up for an amazing career and lifestyle.  Keep in mind that if you are a young agent looking to own your agency one day, I was in your shoes.  I lived it.  I experienced what you are feeling.

What are the first steps to make this endeavour successful for all parties (young agent buyer and almost retired agency owner)?  Below are some steps I took to successfully transition myself into ownership and have my own thriving insurance agency.  Hint:  the key is relationships.

  1. Relationship with your state association. This was the first key for me when I set out to find an agency to purchase.  The first thing I did was reach out to our Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of South Carolina president Frank Sheppard.  We sat down and discussed my dream and vision, and then Frank helped me identify a few potential insurance agencies that might fit my parameters.  Getting someone like Frank on my side (and as a cheerleader) was a huge bridge between me (at the time 27 years old) and potential sellers (60+ years old).  I received instant credibility from potential sellers knowing that Frank endorsed me.  This alone opened up doors that I could not open on my own.

  2. Relationship with buyer. Once I identified a potential buyer, I did not ask him or tell him I wanted to buy his agency.  Please do not do this right away as it is a major turnoff.  I first built a relationship by asking about the agency, his success over the years, obstacles over the years, and about him personally.  He got to know me as well.  We literally met once a week to “shoot the breeze” for about six months before we got deep in the weeds about the agency and talking numbers.   He obviously knew I was interested in purchasing his agency but in order for him to sell to me, he has to trust me and get to know me and my intentions.  I had to “check off” on his wants just as much as his agency had to check off on my list of items.

    This relationship that we built during this time 100% (hands down) was the reason we made a deal work.  He trusted me and I trusted him.  As a matter of fact, we still meet once a quarter (almost six years after I purchased the agency) just to catch up and see how our families and the agency are doing.  He is one of our agency’s biggest cheerleaders in our community.

  3. Relationship with financers. OK, so I found the agency I wanted to buy (and even had a signed agreement in hand) but how was I going to pay for it?  Luckily being in the insurance business, we tend to have friends in the banking world.  I had a good friend sit down with me and go over the financials, run pro-formas, and look at how the financing would be structured.  We probably met twenty times going over everything.  However, the key thing that I gained from all these meetings was the knowledge of a business plan.  No bank will lend you money without a solid business plan.  This is your holy grail to financing, your Bible on how you plan to run your new business.  It is not only key to get financing but is the key to your success (or failure) as a business owner.  It shocks me to hear about the numbers on how most people fail at being a business owner because they #1 did not write a business plan, and #2 never followed their business plan.

    A business plan should walk through literally everything within your agency from finances to sales to marketing to human resources to competition to a hard/soft market impact to technology…all the way to how to deal with big situations. Any time I have an issue or am placed in a corner, I turn to my business plan (written when I was thinking clearly) to help clarify the decision I need to make.  Keep in mind that you can always tweak your business plan, but you need to hold true to the core of your “why” in your business plan.

  4. Other Key Relationships — family and friends.  Having the support and buy-in with your family and friends is crucial.  First and foremost, make sure your significant other is comfortable with this decision (remember you are making this decision together).  You must be on the same page for a long-term successful career as an agency owner.  There will be many highs and lows during your ownership, and you need to have a solid foundation at home to get you through them.

    Join a mastermind group.  I belong to quite a few agency owner groups and, without a doubt, these other agency owners have helped elevate my business.  Certainly I have to act on everything within my agency, but these other agency owners have been instrumental in our success in implementing new technologies, processes and services.

    For me, another key relationship was to bring on partners.  Two years ago I decided that we can grow larger, quicker and have more fun doing it with partners.  Having partners has allowed me to shift some responsibilities and most importantly, not have every decision weigh on me.  I love perspective, and I am the first to tell you that I do not know everything, nor want to.  Partners can be a blessing.

In conclusion, I want to answer some questions I posed above:

How do you do this?  Simply jump in and get active, ask questions, connect with agency owners, connect with your association, get involved.

When is the right time?  Now. There is never a better time than now. There are so many opportunities out there, but they will not always be there.  Acquisitions are more active than ever.  You can be a part of the next generation of agency owners but you must jump in now.

Where to turn?  Your state association.  Your local association.  Other local agency owners.  Reach out to these people and let them know your dream and vision.  Don’t be bashful.  Don’t worry that if you tell them that they will “steal your opportunity.”  If you follow my suggestions, people will see the difference in you versus the other guy.  Be intentional, be present, jump in and see your dreams and visions through!

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