After launching the agency in June 2021, Christopher Sheely used the Great Resignation to his advantage, spreading the word to his past connections and using the lure of freedom and opportunity that many job seekers are looking for.
Christopher Sheely Agency
Sheely’s goal is to grow his staff by 400% in the next five years—to at least 20, up from the four currently working at the young agency. After launching the agency in June 2021, Sheely used the Great Resignation to his advantage, spreading the word to his past connections and using the lure of freedom and opportunity that many job seekers are looking for.
“There were quite a few employees quitting State Farm, and it just so happened that it coincided with me starting my agency,” he says. “Two of my current employees were just tired of the 9 to 5 structure—they wanted something a bit more flexible.”
Perks of working at an independent agency?
I make my own hours. There is no cap on the money that we can make as a team. And there’s a lot of flexibility, as well. If someone has an appointment or whatever the case may be, that’s totally fine.
Developing your book of business?
While my agency was in its infancy, I needed to build my book of business quickly, and the quickest way to do that was to go through personal lines. And when my personal lines book was pretty steady, I could then shift the focus to commercial lines. As of right now, my book of business is 80% personal lines and 20% commercial lines.
Being visible in the community?
It feels good to go out and meet with people, and when they ask, “Are you the agency owner?” it feels good to say “yes.” A lot of people think that agency owners are sort of nonexistent or hands-off. I make it a point to be visible, especially in the community.
I teach defensive driving courses, and one time a gentleman asked me, “Why don’t you have one of your guys come up here and teach?” But I love what I do, so I’ll take the time out of my schedule to speak to people and teach courses.
Path to insurance?
I was pursuing law school. My undergrad is in political science but I also have a concentration in pre-law. I was going to take that and go right into law school, and I thought one avenue would be taking an internship with an attorney. The attorney was a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, as well.
Right before I graduated, I got a job with State Farm and I just fell in love with insurance. I couldn't go to law school and still work at State Farm, so I had to make a choice. The choice that I decided to go with—which turned out, in my opinion, to be the best choice—was to start on this whole insurance journey.
What caused you to love insurance?
The first thing—the most important thing—was the ability to help people. And then the second thing, insurance is so interesting to me. There are so many nuances, especially when you're dealing with different lines of business. Whether it's personal, commercial or life-health, there's never a dull moment.
How does your political experience inform your work?
I was responsible for coordinating community events, which included setting up meetings with other representatives, senators and mayors. My name was put into the forefront in the local community. I got to know different people and they got to know me. When I became an insurance agent, I reached back to those days as a legislative aide and told them I'm on a different career path and would like to work with the local community again.
But it also helped me from a personal aspect, as well. Because I was speaking in front of groups of people and talking to business leaders, senators, and different politicians, I became comfortable speaking in public.
Ups and downs of starting an agency in 2021?
The two challenges were finding carrier appointments and generating new business. Since we were in a pandemic at that time, it wasn't like I could just go door to door, so it was a lot of cold calling initially. It was a whole lot of asking for referrals and social media marketing, as well.
Delving into life-health?
I've had a life license for about five years now. I wanted to make sure that I utilized that in some capacity. As I was trying to find new carriers, I drew the attention of two life insurance carriers that reached out to me. I've sold life insurance before and the underwriting process, especially the medical portion of it, can be very overwhelming for a lot of people because those policies can take a very long time to issue. One of the things that were very important to me was an expedited underwriting process. It was three of us in the beginning and I didn't want my employees to be overwhelmed.
I did a trial run with the carriers and as I was working with them and seeing what products they had it was easy for me to then tie into workers comp. It gave us various streams of income and various ways to sell different policies but the most important thing was it all tied together.
AnneMarie McPherson Spears is IA news editor.