Agency Profile: Taking the Heat

Bryan Insurance Agency Ltd.

Graham, Texas
Founded: 1921
Employees: 23

On a 100-plus degree July afternoon, the power went out during Bryan Insurance Agency’s open house. “Chocolate-covered strawberries were sliding off the cake, and we looked like drowned rats,” says Sonya Edwards, operations manager.

But every employee stayed cheerfully until the sweltering end, demonstrating the loyalty of a team whose tenures often exceed 25 years.

The agency works to keep them. When a family move threatened the loss of a valuable employee, Bryan arranged for her to work remotely. Now others work remotely, too.

At 80%, commercial lines leads the business mix. Bryan shows an organic compound annual growth rate (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) of more than 40% over the past five years. And while Edwards is the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas 2015 CSR of the Year, she says “anybody here would have deserved to win. We have an incredible team.”

SONYA EDWARDS, OPERATIONS MANAGER

Our most successful marketing tools are customer referrals and direct contact with prospects. The program we put together for oil and gas consultants is an example. The insurance and risk management needs of oil and gas industry clients are unique, and we have the knowledge and relationships to handle those. We have never advertised it, but have more than 250 clients in the program. We were instrumental in creating a special insurance program for members of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers. We also put together a program with one of our carriers for oil and gas consultants.

Our biggest challenge has been information overload. We have contracts with more than 20 direct carriers and hundreds of—if not a thousand—MGAs, and keeping up with changing marketing appetite has been difficult. To stay ahead of this, we built our own marketing database where producers can search, based upon several criteria, to find the best markets. Our agency management system also has a market appetite search feature. Finally, our regular in-house newsletter, Bryan Buzz—prepared by Mel Lee, marketing manager— highlights important changes and reminders regarding markets. Reading her one- or two-page newsletter is much easier than reading the many emails we receive from carriers.

DENNY BRYAN, OWNER & PARTNER

We believe every employee supports the sales process, so we have only three full-time producers—two of whom joined our team in the last 10 years. All our account managers are licensed agents, and they often act as producers in writing new business. Our assistant account managers and producer assistants take care of checking policies, issuing certificates and submitting applications, so the producers and account managers can focus on offering the best product at the most economical price while providing excellent customer service to each client.

We make sure all our communication—including proposals, blogs, social media, agency website and quarterly newsletters—consistently portrays the same message. Even though that message is constantly growing and evolving, the core has stayed the same: Our clients are the most important part of our business. Our staff is made up of insurance professionals who are highly trained and always learning. In addition to insurance policies, we provide many value-added services. We care about our clients, our employees and our community.

While we write business all over Texas and several other states, we are located in a small town and we have to compete in personal lines with some direct writers. Spring storms with high winds and hail are pretty common here, so we sponsor weather reports on the local radio station. When there is bad weather, our name gets repeated often. We also have a weekly radio spot where one of our personal lines staff answers insurance questions on the air. These spots are recorded and shared on our agency’s YouTube channel and other social media sites.

TOMMY DIES, CFO

We are intentional about letting clients know how much we do for them, both through our insurance services and our value-added services. We offer many value-added services to our clients at no additional cost. They include a client portal and mobile app, which allow clients to view policy information, issue certificates and auto ID cards and report claims 24/7; workers compensation experience modification verification and projection, as well as periodic auditing of open claims seeking to get reserve lowered prior to calculation of experience modification; risk management, including loss prevention; and claims advocacy for large or complicated claims.

With the energy sector in a slump and a large part of our business being in that sector, this year’s priority is to manage expenses and further diversify our book of business. We still feel we can see organic growth this year, but we need to cast our net a little wider and look to non-oil field businesses for that growth.