Powell grew up cutting records and touring as an R&B artist but ended up breaking into insurance instead. “It went from something on the side to a passion to, ultimately, a purpose,” he says.
Jarrard “Rod” Powell Sr.
Encore Insurance Group
Powell grew up cutting records and touring as an R&B artist, but by the time he reached his 30s, he was looking for a more stable career. After breaking into insurance through claims and benefits, Powell realized that “insurance was not only something that I could do, but something that I would enjoy,” he says. “And lo and behold, it went from something on the side to a passion to, ultimately, a purpose.”
In 2022, Powell and his business partner founded Encore Insurance Group, a mid-Atlantic independent agency that runs the gamut from commercial property & casualty to life, retirement solutions and employee benefits, specializing in voluntary benefits and enrollment communication services.
Starting the agency was “an opportunity to create the culture that’s going to service communities in the way that we desire, help people, bring value and be a solution,” Powell says.
Transferrable skills from being an R&B artist?
There are a lot of lessons from the music business that translate. Being able to present yourself well, being comfortable speaking in public is a lot like performing, and having fortitude. A lot of those soft skills carry over. As a musician, I worked on 100% commission from selling records and doing shows.
Essential talents for success?
In 2012, I came up with an acronym called the DAD Principle—discipline, accountability and determination. Those are three things that you absolutely need if you’re going to work in this industry. Additionally, perseverance and keeping a positive outlook are crucial.
Doing better for clients?
Agents have to educate clients rather than just sell and offer insurance. The great agents out there are taking the time to educate people. For example, we need to talk about building generational wealth and the tax advantages of life insurance. From a recruiting and retention perspective, it’s about sharing the opportunity to become a stakeholder.
What challenges have you faced?
Coming from a benefits background and getting acclimatized to p&c. But the same challenges that exist for me are the challenges that exist for everyone else—making sure you're marketing properly and have enough business coming in. Also, making sure you're supporting the people working for you and you're continuing to grow as a company and organization with the right solutions and partnerships.
Opportunities in the hard market?
We're finding ways to pivot and expand. New software and technology can help us reach more people faster and make coverage more accessible and easier.
You've written two books, what inspired you to write them?
“You Should Get A License: What You Should Know About The Most Underrated Industry in Business Today" came from the podcast I host called “You Should Get a License." I took those conversations, some independent research that I had done, as well as some of my own personal experiences, and put together a compendium of all things insurance. It's a really easy read. I think an 8th-grader could understand it.
“Black Pioneers of the American Insurance Industry: The Biographies of Five Outstanding Black Entrepreneurs and the Lessons of their Legacies" came about because I was looking for a book about Black entrepreneurs in finance but I couldn't find one, so I wrote one.
Advice for someone looking to enter the insurance industry, especially as an independent agent?
Be open-minded. Be fluid. You might find that you're not going in the right direction but that doesn't mean the industry doesn't have a place for you. Also, find someone that you can learn from. And if you're a new independent agent, make sure that you're focused on learning before you're focused on trying to generate revenue.
Experience working with the National African American Insurance Association (NAAIA)?
I don't know if I can give them enough credit. They helped me establish relationships before the agency had written even one policy. They got me interested in researching Black contributions in the insurance industry. I also started the Central Virginia Chapter. You don't have to be African American to be involved, you just have to believe in a diverse industry. Will Jones is IA editor-in-chief.