After graduating high school and college, Maldonado took a job in car sales. The role opened her eyes to insurance, and after working in an agency for several years, Maldonado co-founded an agency in 2019.
Pronto Insurance Services
Maldonado moved to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 16 years old. After graduating high school and college, she took a job in car sales. The role opened her eyes to insurance, and after working in an agency for several years, Maldonado co-founded an agency in 2019 with sales manager Marco Espinoza.
The agency partners with an auto lending finance company and most of the clientele is Hispanic. Those relationships and Maldonado’s experience with car sales and in-house financing helped the agency write more than $4.5 million in personal lines premium last year. Now, Pronto Insurance is focused on expanding into new states, entering new lines of insurance, and training licensed agents.
“I always thought, if I ever had an agency, I would do things differently,” she says. “A lot of agencies focus on selling a policy to be profitable, not on educating the Hispanic community.”
Approach to sales?
When I came to this country, I didn’t understand the value of insurance because it wasn’t part of my culture. So, when we launched the agency, I felt the urge to educate the customers. Once you start applying that, it’s amazing to see how people can be loyal to you and your business.
Growing your team?
In 2020, the team was made up of only three people. Today, we’ve grown to 20 people—with a combination of biology, architecture, communications and marketing degrees. Most of them only speak Spanish, but we have English study groups and are working to help people grow within the company.
Promoting from within?
We want to build agents up from scratch so they can learn the right way. When you hire an agent that came from another agency, they have their own ways of doing things. So I thought, “Let’s try to build people from the ground up and teach them our way.”
Incentivizing agents to get licensed?
We instated an incentive. If they can get licensed within six weeks, they're going to get a $500 bonus and a raise on their hourly rate. Obviously, the test is in English. Even though they don't speak the language, we are helping them get licensed. I strongly believe that if we help them study—we are doing group studies and some of our agents have already taken the test—we will get them through it.
Biggest challenges of running an agency?
Transitioning from being a producer to an agency leader, as well as developing and recruiting new talent to build a team that will work together to achieve our goals. It's hard to deal with different personalities but I've learned how to deal with multiple people and help them be successful. I have come a long way.
Plans for expansion?
We are focusing on expanding into life and health. One of the benefits of starting to offer these other lines of insurance is to better protect their customers. However, a challenge that we are having right now is helping our team to get licensed.
Benefits of an all-Spanish-speaking team?
Most of our clients speak Spanish and don't know how to read English. Our team can explain exactly what they're buying and how the insurance works. Many times, customers don't even know how a medical payment is used in the case of an accident. It's little stuff like that that we can explain to our customers in their own language—the benefits of what they're buying, how to use it and when to use it if something happens. It's very fulfilling to be able to help those people.
Why is your agency successful?
One of the things that makes us successful is because people who come from other countries have a drive to succeed, work hard and make money. It's not easy to come to the United States and get an office job just like that. Usually, people start in factories or restaurants. We're growing because people who come from other countries, which is most of my team, really appreciate that they can work in an corporate office environment.
Best thing about being an independent agent?
I can create my own business model and help my team succeed professionally and financially—help them educate our customers and protect them. I also love that I'm learning a lot.
Advice to another agency manager?
Invest in people and promote from within. Whether they have experience in insurance or not, help them, promote them, grow them and lead them to turn into the best financial advisors. Subsequently, they'll become financially strong while helping others.
Just like the founder of Pronto Insurance Services. He understood that it's important to invest in people and believed in my potential to help start an agency from the ground up.
Will Jones is IA editor-in-chief.