Agency Profile: Successful to Significant

APManry & Heston

Atlanta
Founded: 1887
Employees: 22

In 2017, when Charles McCollum took over Manry & Heston with partners David Cherry and Charlie Fister, he remembered a quote from University of Georgia football coach Kirby Smart.

“He said, ‘I want to make the University of Georgia football team significant again,’” McCollumn says. “It’s the same thing with Manry & Heston. We’ve been around since 1887, so we’ve been successful on a certain level. Now, we’re trying to be more significant within our niche.”

While many established Atlanta agencies steer toward larger business, “our success has always been in the middle market,” McCollum says. “We have customers on the commercial side that pay premiums from $10,000 to $250,000. We treat that small account like the large account.”

By shifting the agency philosophy to focus on growth, McCollum and his partners hope to ensure an internal perpetuation path in the future.

“When you maximize profit, you’re OK with maintaining the status quo,” McCollum explains. “We’re going to sacrifice that short-term profit to follow growth through reinvestment strategy.”

CHARLIE FISTER, VICE PRESIDENT

When I got out of school, I worked in claims for about five years before joining the agency. I’d never been in a sales role before. I didn’t feel like I was a salesman, but then I realized people don’t like to be sold anyway. They like to buy from somebody they trust.

Having that claims background, and being able to use the policy knowledge to have a conversation about what’s covered and what was not, is probably the reason I have had success as a producer.

Now, in management, I really enjoy working with our young producers. I go out with them on their appointments. We learn from each other.

CHARLES McCOLLUM, PRESIDENT

Before coming to the agency, I was a claims adjuster. I wanted to get out of that aspect of insurance, so I joined the agency as a commercial lines producer.

Our building has three floors. I was on the top floor, where most of the commercial folks are. [When I became president] and I came down a level to work in a different office space, I started to understand the dynamics of the office a little better. The transition from being a producer and a co-worker to being the boss was challenging. It was a little bit uncomfortable in the beginning because I had to realize, “I am the guy who has to make the decisions.”

DAVID CHERRY, VICE PRESIDENT

When I was in college, my dad was an insurance agent at Manry & Heston, so selling insurance was the one thing I knew I didn’t want to do. But when I was looking for a job, I found that was a very good position. Gradually, I learned to find my way in the insurance industry as a producer.

Once Charles, Charlie and I acquired all the shares, it was a little bit of a difficult transition, because we still had our full responsibilities in production while we learned our management roles from scratch. While we had spent a year or two writing down how we would manage the agency on paper, it really took a lot of elbow grease and trial by fire.

Photo by Michael Schwartz