At the first two independent agencies that hired him, Andrew Muller was told he’d have the opportunity to buy in.
But “that went out the window both times when each agency got bought out by a national broker,” Muller says. “It was frustrating. I decided, ‘I’m either going to figure out a way to own my own agency, or I’m going to get out of the business.’”
Frank Sheppard, president of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of South Carolina, helped Muller identify Mappus Insurance Agency—owner Teddy Mappus was looking to retire and didn’t have any kids in the business.
“We met once a week for six months, and we put together a deal,” Muller says. “I bought the agency in January 2015 when Teddy turned 65, and we’ve been growing like crazy ever since.”
When I came to the agency, it was shrinking. They were just sitting on a book of business. It wasn’t a sales organization—it was more of a maintain kind of organization. Everything was paper. It was so old-school.
Since then, we’ve gone as paperless as you can go for an insurance agency. We try to do everything digitally. We’re in the process of moving to Tech Canary as our management system. We use video for proposals, and we use social media a lot—we’re pushing 170 Google Reviews. We automate an onboarding campaign for all our new clients, and our renewal process is mostly automated, too. We also utilize some third-party services such as WAHVE and Marble Box—anything we can do to help our team streamline processes.
We’re constantly reevaluating everything and making sure what we’re doing is ahead of the game. We don’t want to be catching up with people. We want to be the trendsetters instead of looking at other agencies and wondering, “How did they do that?” That’s what we want people to think about us.
BEST-KEPT MARKETING SECRET?
The first is following through with what you say you’re going to do, and the second is going above and beyond—trying to wow people in every single transaction. Do the unexpected.
A lot of our brand is just word of mouth. We work on referrals 100%. We do not cold call, we do not buy leads—every piece of business we work on is referred in to the agency. Last year, we grew by almost 30%. Every year I’ve been at the agency, we’ve grown by at least 25%.
My mom and stepdad own a swimming pool construction company, so I grew up in a small business family. And then my dad was always in life insurance, and my stepmom built her career at Auto Owners Insurance as a claims adjuster and a marketing rep and is now executive vice president. We would come down and stay with my dad and stepmom during the summers, and we would go on claims and agency visits with my stepmom.
I thought it was really cool helping people with claims and getting them back on their feet, and I loved visiting independent agencies. They always had really good vibes, and I say this jokingly, but every time we would visit an office, the owner would be either at his beach house, at his lake house or on a company trip. After I picked up on all that, I was like, “These people have amazing lives—I’m going to be an agency owner one day!”
Out of college, I initially started out as a claims adjuster because I wanted to learn how to understand policies. In claims, I was constantly dealing with situations where people had no idea what their coverages were, so I saw this big gap. I wanted to help people understand their insurance, so that’s when I jumped onto the sales side of things.
I have two partners: J. Griffin Morrow, who was in the banking industry for 10 years and wanted to get out—we had a deal where once he got his book to a certain size, he could buy into the agency; and David Watson, whose agency we purchased last year—he became a partner during the acquisition.
The Big “I” has been such an important part of my career. If it wasn’t for Frank and his connection with Teddy, I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to purchase Mappus. And then on the educational side, I’ve learned so much from all the continuing education opportunities, not just at national but also here in South Carolina. Just knowing these people has really accelerated my knowledge for insurance.
I’ve been involved with Young Agents for as long as I can remember—I’m the chair of the South Carolina Young Agents Committee, and I sit on the IIABSC state board. I’m definitely the youngest person on the board, and I’m not a quiet person. I voice my opinion as a forward thinker, and I get to bring perspective to a lot of people on the board who might not be thinking in the way that I am. That opens their eyes and gets really good conversations going.
I’ve been up to D.C. for the Legislative Conference a couple times, and it’s such an amazing opportunity to help make change for an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people. What could be more impactful than that?
WHAT SETS YOUR AGENCY APART?
We don’t sell insurance at Mappus. We educate people, and that empowers them to make smart decisions about their insurance.