By: Haig Wright II, CEO & President
As the owner of an independent insurance agency, I recognize that the thought of selling or merging with another company is hard to bear. Building a successful insurance agency isn't an easy process. It involves a lot of hard work, to say the least, and usually a little blood, sweat, and tears. While many insurance agency owners know that they need a solid perpetuation plan, they tend to wait around only to let valuable time go by. Instead of taking the time to find the right partner that would truly be a good fit, those agency owners are left scrambling at the last minute after they have finally coming to terms with the fact that it's time to take the next step.
Most agency owners get into the insurance industry because they enjoying helping people and building strong relationships with clients. However, as an agency grows, it’s easy to get to a point where you have to start taking on different roles and gain more and more responsibility.
Whether time is spent with billing or human resource issues, as an owner your attention can be pulled in many different directions. Your focus broadens by necessity. This causes you to step away from selling insurance and focusing solely on clients, which is probably what drew you to the business and to the insurance industry in the first place. This means that agency owners, who are often still Producers, are not out there getting the personal interaction and fulfillment you once enjoyed and are not getting to see as often the first-hand the difference you’re making in the lives of your clients.
On the other hand, maybe you’re looking to retire in the near or distant future and want your clients to continue being served by a company that truly has their best interest at heart.
When it gets to this point, it’s time to stop and think—is merging or selling my insurance agency the right choice for me and my agency’s future?
Finding the right insurance agency to partner with can give you the best of both worlds. Not only can you get back to what you really loved and enjoyed about the business, but with the right partner, you gain more resources and “bench strength” that enables you to be even more valuable to your clients.
Focus on what you enjoy about the insurance industry. Many of us get into insurance because we enjoy building relationships with our clients and protecting them from any exposures they face. We know that our work can make a difference in someone’s life. However, as an agency grows, an owner must handle a variety of tasks, including HR and managerial roles, which can often be overwhelming and time-consuming. Partnering with the right agency means alleviating the weight of these tasks in a resourceful and more efficient way.
Get back invaluable time to focus on clients and family. As an agency owner, you may have gotten used to the fact that there was no such thing as “time-off.” But being a part of another agency can mean that you finally have the time to not only truly focus on your clients, but focus on your family as well, whether that means going on vacations or simply spending time with loved ones. You determine your own schedule, and after merging or selling, you can spend your time where you’d like to.
Gain additional resources that make you more valuable to clients. Aside from getting back to what you love, partnering with the right insurance agency can mean you have access to tools and resources that you were once not able to provide. This could be having access to an experienced bonding agent or even gaining knowledge of new, important offerings like cyber liability insurance.
Agencies that perpetuate earlier rather than later gain more value. They have more earning power and an additional number of years of producing potential left in their careers.
After almost 40 years in this industry, I’ve been a part of several successful mergers and acquisitions. I’ve probably been in your same position - as a producer, president, and owner; one company merging with another; the agency acquiring a book of business; the agency acquiring a competitor - I understand the factors to consider.
Consider the cultures of both agencies first and foremost. Your cultures must align in order to yield a successful venture in the long run. Good cultures can create genuine organizational trust, positive experiences, and employees that continue to grow both professionally and personally in the right direction.
Consider your clients. Clients should be top of mind and are important to an owner in this decision making process. Client care must be at least at the same level if not better than it is in its current state. After all, we wouldn’t be in business without our clients.
Consider your employees. It is crucial to consider the operations team and the employees in each agency. When merging or selling with the right partner, employees usually have greater opportunities for advancement and extended benefits. As I mentioned before, you have to consider the culture. It means a lot for employees to be a team where they are valued, where they are able to use and hone their skill set in a way that is rewarding both professionally and personally.
A merger or acquisition will only occur when the principal has made the emotional decision to do so. I’ve found that an agency is not going to complete a merger or acquisition until they’ve made that emotional decision, and I completely understand it.
When you join an agency whose motto is “Where Relationships Matter”, you are not only partnering with a reputable business, but you’re joining a family-oriented culture. We believe in protecting relationships - from the inside out. Our family atmosphere has been developing since our very beginning in 1946 and is an asset that we protect. We will continue to grow in this way.
We focus on relationships. Our agency’s purpose is to “Build People. Protect Relationships.” We treat others the way we would want to be treated. Our goal is to ensure that each and every client experiences a level of trust and comfort, knowing that we are doing everything we can to protect them. We seek to understand them, we work to earn trust, and we execute our plans.
As an owner, I understand; merging or selling your agency comes with a level of uncertainty, and there’s a huge level of trust involved, but I’d encourage anyone who’s looking to sell or merge with Byars|Wright to look at prior acquisitions and talk with prior agency owners who are now a part of our team.
Only then, will you see why they often say it’s the best decision they’ve ever made.
Byars|Wright, Inc. is a locally owned and operated independent insurance agency with four offices in the greater Birmingham area that has developed into a major provider of commercial and personal insurance. Since 1946, the agency has made acquisitions to expand its scope of business and delivers a wide range of insurance products with quality coverage at competitive prices. Byars|Wright has been designated a Best Practices Agency by the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America and was also named “Best Companies to Work For in Alabama” by Business Alabama in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Byars|Wright, Where Relationships Matter. www.byarswright.com.