We recently sat down with Charles Rider, Managing Partner at The Colburn Group in Mattapoisett, Mass., to talk about his current experience as an independent agent and as a member of Renaissance Alliance: the premier network for agency owners that want to accelerate the growth of their business.
Charles, you’re a second-generation agent. What lessons did you learn from your father that inform the way you run your own agency, The Colburn Group?
First and foremost, what I learned from my father while working in his agency is that if you take care of your customers, your bottom line will take care of itself. Do what is best for your insureds; not what pays the most commission. In the end your customers appreciate it, and they stick around longer.
How would you describe the relationships you have with your carrier partners, as well as the more personal relationships you have with your clients?
I think finding the right carriers that fit with your client base is paramount to having a successful agency. Carrier interests and client interests don’t always align, so it’s up to the agency owner to make sure that we have carriers in place that fit the needs of our client base. Our relationship with Renaissance has enabled us to fit our clients with the carriers that work, instead of constantly trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
Among the types of policies your agency offers, has the number of coverage requests changed in one specific line in recent years?
At our agency in recent years, we have seen an increase in Homeowners as well as interest from Artisan Contractors. The reasons for that are twofold: Home sales, construction and remodeling are up due to many factors (reassessment during the pandemic, stimulus, the economy, etc.), resulting in more home sales and more need for contractors. The second reason is our product-focused/targeted marketing. We have become very familiar with both of these lines and feel strongly that they tend to drive other lines of business in as well. It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario – where a line of business takes off, we learn the product, market it and sell it better, which in turn drives more business in that line.
What’s the biggest way in which being a Renaissance Alliance member agency has helped your business?
Being a member of Renaissance Alliance has helped our business by giving us not only access to carriers, but also the support required to obtain bindable quotes and then service those accounts going forward. Our prior relationships provided us with “access,” but insufficient support made it difficult to bind, issue and service them properly. I would also like to mention that the back-office support that Renaissance provides has proven to be as important as the market access. This includes support for our automation systems as well as accounting processes that have proven to be critical in allowing our in-house employees to focus on production related tasks rather than administrative work.
What do you believe is the most important mission of the independent agent?
With the multiple channels available for a customer to obtain insurance in today’s market, our most important mission is to be a partner to our clients and carriers rather than just a salesperson. We try to make sure that we understand the needs of every client and match it with the right product from the right carrier rather than just finding the cheapest coverage. We make sure our insureds understand what they are purchasing and how it will protect them, rather than just saving them the most money possible.