Eftekhari's agency is 49% employee owned, utilizing the employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) to perpetuate, maintain continuity, and reward employees.
In the heady days of the dotcom bubble, Eftekhari and his business partner started a website called ReliaQuote.com that sold term life insurance online. The company grew rapidly and built partnerships to handle the back-end processing of life insurance sales for CitiMortgage, Fidelity and Capital One. In 2003, Eftekhari sold the company to Fiserv but bought it back in 2007.
Along the way, he met Jeff Zander, joined Zander Insurance in 2013 and moved to Tennessee. “Jeff and I have grown the business together. We've tripled the top line and tripled the bottom line," he says. “It's been a great partnership and a really good adventure."
How is your agency investing in the future?
We have a five-year plan. We're taking our personal lines business national in scope. We're also making a big splash nationally with health insurance. Hiring a person to run both departments was step one. We also want to diversify our marketing efforts, so we hired someone with over 20 years' experience and are becoming more sophisticated with our marketing campaigns. We're investing in talent and clearing obstacles so they can grow the business.
What are the benefits of an ESOP?
Zander is 49% employee-owned. The employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) aligns the interests of everyone within the organization. It's a way to perpetuate the business, have continuity and reward those that helped build the agency. It's a big part of the company. When we're profitable, everyone benefits.
Listening to your team?
We have nine different divisions. I do a “Q&A with Shervin" where I go to each team and answer any questions—big or small—about the company and our strategy. You'd be surprised how pointed the questions are, but it's because everyone has a stake in it.
Will Jones is IA editor-in-chief.