Marie Sullivan is Agency Principal at Amelia Insurance Agency in Fernandina Beach, Fla. The agency joined Renaissance in October of 2021.
You’ve had some positive experiences in bringing valuable new hires aboard and preserving the agency’s culture. What pointers would you give to other agencies that are looking to attract new talent?
Amelia Island is at the far northeast corner of Florida, just next to the Georgia border. This is a small community, so finding people with insurance industry experience has always been a challenge. We have tried newspaper ads, headhunters, recruiters, websites, and word of mouth to find people with experience. We have found that our best road to success is to find good people and invest in them. We look for local people with good customer skills, computer skills and a willingness to learn. We then take the time to teach them the insurance business. We are looking at the long game versus quick results and have had good success. We have added three new employees to our team in the last 18 months with this strategy.
Amelia Island is a barrier island. What challenges does that present in securing certain types of coverage?
The Northeast Florida insurance market is not as limited as South Florida, but there are challenges. One of these on the commercial side is getting wind coverage for our clients. With many of those risks our only sources are either Weston or Citizens, and they will not write all of the risks. We are always on the lookout for a company that can provide this for us here on Amelia Island. We are having some success with our Renaissance partners in getting this done.
What strategies have worked best for you in attracting new clients?
Our best source is our current customers recommending us to their friends and neighbors. We are in the office to answer phone calls. We take the time to talk to, understand, and educate our clients – and that pays off in happy customers. We have also linked up with local CPAs and advisors to share referrals. These financial advisors are in the same face-to-face business of understanding client needs and making personalized recommendations. Our website and other social media presence are in important part of our mix, and we invest time in making sure we have good client feedback and timely response to new referrals. Simply returning a call on a web referral can provide a positive experience to potential clients and put us ahead of at least 50% of our competitors.
Amelia Insurance Agency recently celebrated its 75th anniversary and is well established in the community. How has the agency evolved over the years, especially as it relates to Fernandina Beach’s growth?
We have always been a local office serving our local community. We have evolved and adapted as our community has changed and as the insurance business has changed. Amelia Island has become a renowned destination, welcoming visitors from around the world – but as a barrier island in Florida, we are faced with many insurance challenges. Adapting new technologies, such as adding Renaissance to our agency, and adapting to the changing environment allow us to deliver the best product to our customers. We are still the local office where we can meet face to face to discuss our clients’ insurance needs, but with the latest technology we can deliver the best products efficiently.
What would you say is your agency’s greatest strength?
Our people. In a world headed toward automated call centers and centralized administration, we are going the opposite way. We strive to interact directly with our clients. Our people and those interactions are what makes us different. We invest in training and development and our team members work collaboratively. We understand our local insurance market and take the time to educate, collaborate, and consult with our clients to tailor policies to fit their individual needs.