Miami-based Renaissance Alliance member Daniel Rojas shares his thoughts on growing commercial lines, attracting new clients, and building a successful agency.
LLJ Risk Advisors serves a great deal of commercial accounts, and you’ve mentioned the importance of helping new clients uncover critical gaps in their coverage – or, in some cases, reveal for them how they can save a lot more than they realize. Can you share an example?
I don’t like to sell on price. You live and die by that sword, and I do not feel bad losing a client over that. Many times, they are getting what they pay for. I believe in being a trusted advisor to my clients, and I know they appreciate that more.
My goal with a new prospect is to ask the right questions to uncover pain they may not know they have. I recently helped a trade contractor save $20,000 a year simply by changing their workers’ compensation classification code. For years they were insured incorrectly by many different agents. Can you imagine erroneously paying $20k more in insurance year after year for 15 years? I just took the time to ask them questions about their business and took the time to read the NCCI manual to quickly know they were insured incorrectly. I did not compete on price with another insurance company, but I still managed to save them thousands of dollars.
What are some of the challenges of serving commercial real estate clients in the Sunshine State, and how do you address them?
It is never a dull day in Florida, especially South Florida, when it comes to insuring commercial real estate. Half of my clientele are commercial real estate investors/owners. For 17 years I’ve helped them manage their risk. When I started in this business back in 2004, I immediately was thrown into the craziest insurance market in a century. That same year, five storms made landfall – three of them being major hurricanes (Category 3 or greater). The Florida Property insurance market simply imploded after that.
I think working in that environment as a newbie and being able to survive, has prepared me for the current hard market we are experiencing now in Florida. I prepare my clients well in advance of the renewal for pending large rate increases, and explain to them any limitations of coverages they may also see. It is important to be up front and honest and to truly remarket the account to see if there are more viable options out there for them.
What do you find are the best ways to attract new clients?
For me it always has been and always will be about networking. Since I am a start-up and have only been in business for a year, it is all about attracting new business. Luckily, I have a network that is out there working for me. Whether it be my past clients, friends, business network professionals like attorneys, CPAs, etc., my phone has not stopped ringing and e-mail has not stopped arriving with referrals on a weekly basis. I haven’t spent any money on advertising or marketing. But it took years to build up my network.
I have an abundance mindset: Every time I look out my office window or a window from an airplane, I envision thousands of businesses that have no idea how I can help them. My job is to find those business owners and help them. My metaphor is to act like an octopus and have your tentacles reaching far and wide. Just have meaningful conversations with everyone you meet and follow up. You’ll be amazed at the opportunities that open up.
Who was your mentor when you were coming up as an agent, and what were some of the most important lessons you learned?
I was lucky to have a lot of great mentors working at a highly reputable boutique insurance agency called Kahn-Carlin & Co. However, two of them stand out in how they truly changed my life and shaped my career. The late great John Walther was my first mentor and taught me everything there is to know about the technical side of insurance. I called him the “human insurance encyclopedia.” He knew the answer to everything – and if he didn’t, he taught me how to find the answers. I will never forget him. Rick Alvarez was our marketing manager for many years, and he taught me the sales aspect to being a great insurance agent. My book of business doubled within two years of adapting his philosophies. I still call him to this day to pick his brain on certain accounts. He taught me how relationships are the trump card and how to properly qualify a prospect and ask the right questions. My closing ratio shot up because of his guidance.
How do you strike a balance between running an agency and being present for your family?
As a father of three little kids (aged 2,4, and 6), it is definitely a challenge. However, I get to drop them off and pick them up every day at school and just find a way to make that happen. Even if it means working late nights after they are in bed, I get to be present in the moment when I am with them. As the sole bread winner for a family of five, going out on my own to start an insurance agency was a family decision. My wife Monica and I were on the same page, and we have had to sacrifice a lot to make it happen. Starting a business in the middle of a pandemic with no clients and zero income was certainly a leap of faith. I was able to hit my sales goal for the year, move into a bigger office and hire my first employee all while not sacrificing time away from family. As Stephen Covey says, “The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.” I choose to invest in family first.