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Declaration of Independents: David Garcia

After leaving the family business—professional baseball—Garcia founded a grand-slam agency 25 years ago with his wife, Charlotte Garcia. A Best Practices agency for 17 years in a row, Rancho Mesa’s secret to success comes down to one thing … literally.
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DoI Dave-Garcia_Resized.jpgDavid Garcia


Rancho Mesa Insurance Services Inc.

San Diego, California 

Garcia left the family business—professional baseball—and ultimately founded a grand-slam agency 25 years ago with his wife, Charlotte Garcia. A Best Practices agency for 17 years in a row while remaining deeply involved in the community, Rancho Mesa’s secret to success comes down to one thing … literally. 

“Various people have asked me over the years, ‘How big do you want to be? Are you trying to be one of the best agencies in San Diego?’ And I said, ‘Nah, that’s not the goal. I’m really trying to be one of one,’” Garcia says. 

The concept of “one” resonates in the agency’s culture. In fact, the agency trademarked the term OneofOne®, representing the drive to be experts in deeply specialized niches. “It’s proved to be a real boon,” Garcia says. 

Benefits of Best Practices? 

Best Practices provides a lot of data that will help you benchmark your agency against other Best Practices agencies in the country. With a sports background, I’m very competitive by nature—batting averages, things like that. 

Developing niches? 

We don’t intend to be everything to everyone, we just want to be “the one” to certain people. As we began to specialize in different spaces, we created various programs: LandOne™, CommunityOne™, MaintenanceOne™, to name a few, that identify that we’re building something unique to that industry. What we found is that if we understand the unique needs that industry has, we can design tailored coverages and safety trainings that address those needs. Carriers look at us as a specialist rather than a generalist in that space, which allows us to secure favorable terms from them. 

Favorite thing about being an independent agency owner? 

We can offer ownership in the company to those employees who have put their time and talent into making Rancho Mesa a Best Practices agency. What may be unique about these offerings is that we do not limit it to just producers, but extend it to non-producers as well. As we speak, we’re currently adding four more partners—two producers and two non-producers. We believe everyone should dream and we want to set an example for everybody that anything is possible.

Career in baseball?

Baseball was our family business—my dad was a professional baseball player who went on to both coach and manage in the major leagues. I grew up around baseball. In the middle of college, I was drafted by the Yankees and spent two-and-a-half years in the minor leagues. Two of my sons also played professional baseball, it was just a passion that we all shared without any expectation that we had to play baseball. Since my career was pretty brief, I wasn't as successful as the rest of my family. I went back to college and then I had to get a real job.

From baseball to agency ownership? 

When I got out of baseball, I went back to San Diego State. After graduating, I went to work at Xerox and became a sales manager. My role was to hire 10 kids out of college, train them, release them into the wild, and then get 10 more. 

As it turned out, someone else at Xerox knew an independent agency owner. The Xerox person advised hiring insurance people and teaching them how to sell. He reached out to Xerox HR to ask if someone was experienced in sales training. They recommended me. I took the leap, became a partner in that agency a few years later, and then the agency was sold to a national broker. Having a leadership role within a national broker allowed me the opportunity to really learn the agency management side of the business, for that I'm forever grateful.

My wife was running a region for a worker's compensation carrier at that time. When I had the idea to start a company, she encouraged me to do it and then joined me a year and a half later.

What other value-added benefits does the agency offer clients? 

We believe that it's important to give back to not just our clients, but the whole insurance community. To help us to do this, we built our own studio to tape podcasts and create videos, not surprisingly it's called StudioOne. We just released on episode 344 of our podcasts, discussing risk management topics, industry trends, and interviews with various insurance leaders on timely topics. We are proud to say we are north of 17,000 plays on those podcasts.

We also do monthly workshops and webinars, which are held live, filmed when we are able and then archived to be viewed. Each year we meet and discussed the topics for the upcoming year; we then go about securing the right person or company to conduct the workshop. Our carrier partners have supported us time and again with those training needs.

From these trainings and others that we offer, our Client Services Group created a SafetyStar™ program that has an industry accepted certification for those completing the program. The SafetyStar program is available for all of our client's employees to complete but is generally targeted to foreman, supervisors and the construction crew members of our clients. Once they complete the courses and pass the tests, they are awarded a certificate of completion and then, to have a little fun and generate more interest, we also have SafetyStar stickers that they can place on their hardhats like back in their day of putting stickers on their football helmet. It's created a little competition to get a sticker for your hardhat too, but the end result are safer clients

Launching a safety app?

This year we launched SafetyOne™ with both a desktop and mobile version. It's eliminated a lot of paperwork for clients. Weekly safety trainings known as toolbox talks are available on a mobile device to the foreman or superintendent, who goes through the safety topic with their team, and then they pass around the phone or tablet for everyone in attendance to sign. Signatures are electronically transferred to that client's cloud. At any point in time, we can pull the safety meeting records to see what training has been done and who was in attendance.

When the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or a general contractor asks, “When's the last time so-and-so did training on falls?" that can be a real chore with a lot of paper. But we individualized each person's training into a QR code that can be either put on their employee badge or their hardhat. Someone can literally walk up to someone and pull up all the training a worker has completed. 

Proving value to clients?

Our SafetyStar certification program and our SafetyOne app are two good examples of how we're not just trying to sell people insurance—we're really trying to impact their business. Every employer in every industry wants every employee of theirs to go home safely to their families every night. Additionally, business owners want to maintain productivity and be profitable. Our safety trainings and all the other services we offer help us send that message. We're serious about helping clients make sure their employees get to go home safely to their families, that they're going to gain productivity, and that they're going to be a much more attractive risk in the insurance marketplace.

We have a saying here, “Go the extra mile; it's not very crowded there." So that's the cultural attitude we encourage here whenever any of us is interacting with another employee, client, prospect or carrier partner - go the extra mile.

Hard market in California?

Everyone in California and frankly across the nation is feeling the effects of a hardening insurance market. The auto market nationally and in California is really difficult and has been going on now for several years with no apparent end in sight. There are so many factors in play here, from increased costs of repairs, to large multimillion dollar judgements. There needs to be an increased awareness of the tools that are available to attempt to curb some of these issues; stronger fleet safety programs, the use of technology in monitoring automobile usage, crafting polices to take advantage of higher deductibles … to name a few.

The property and inland marine market has also hardened significantly over the past several years. In California, the threat and impact of wildfires has dramatically change the insurance landscape that has resulted in fewer options and much higher premiums. Here again we are encouraging early access to the marketplace 90-120 days from your expiration date, take a consultive approach with your insurance advisor and look for as many ways as possible to remediate the concerns, from better fire protection to tailoring coverage to your individual needs.

It's time for every risk advisor to roll up their sleeves and work with clients to put strong programs in place, and then make sure you're conveying that information to the insurance marketplace.

Giving back to the community?

It's not an option, it's a given. We identify a certain amount of our revenue annually that we're going to push back into the community through a variety of ways, from little league teams and high school cheer squads to the nonprofits that operate in San Diego. We really encourage our employees to be involved as volunteers. You can only write so many checks for organizations, but where you really can make an impact is by just giving up a little bit of your time. 

AnneMarie McPherson Spears is IA news editor. 

Thursday, January 4, 2024
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