Declaration of Independents: Frank Jones

Frank JonesFrank Jones

Partner
Mints Insurance Agency
Millville, New Jersey

Twenty-five years ago, Frank Jones and his wife found themselves in bankruptcy trying to support Jones’ younger brother, who was struggling with addiction.

“He lost his roadmap to life, and he turned to drugs,” Jones recalls. “Back then, we didn’t understand it, so we threw money at it. Everything we threw at it, we lost, plus.”

The experience drove Jones to found RecoveryReformNOW—a nonprofit that advocates for state and national policy reforms that remove access barriers to addiction treatment. “I couldn’t just say, ‘Somebody’s got to do something about it,’” says Jones, recipient of this year’s Dan Fulwider Award for Community Involvement. “I had to do something about it.”

STAYING MOTIVATED?

Propelled by my faith, I like to make a difference—that’s what drives me every day. Years ago, I chased the dollar and I made a dollar. But after we lost everything, I started to chase a difference. I’ve made a difference, and I’ve also made a dollar.

Kind of interesting, right? You do the right thing for the right reasons, and eventually it will yield the right results. That’s something my grandfather taught me. It’s about staying in the game long enough to see what you’re working on come to fruition.

AND YOUR BROTHER?

He’s four years clean. 

POLICY ACHIEVEMENTS?

From dealing with rehab centers across the country, I learned the business model. I also learned that the desire to get people through the doors to get treatment was as much a battle for the facilities as it was for the families looking for help for their loved ones.

We set off on a course to try to effect policy change. In New Jersey, we extended coverage to six months for those seeking addiction treatment. This prevents the health care carriers from denying coverage on the basis of utilization review or medical necessity. And in California, we passed a bill that banned patient brokering in the state.

What we’re doing now is working to try to get Congress to move on some substantive policy changes to incentivize employers to hire folks in recovery, because the quickest way to recidivism for anyone who’s been through treatment is lack of gainful employment.

GIVING BACK?

I don’t know an independent agent that is not involved in their community. We sit on boards, we give with our time and energy, we give financially, and many of us give alongside our families.

WHY INSURANCE?

I fell into it like many people in the insurance industry. I was working for an MGU out of Oak Creek, Wisconsin but living in New Jersey, so I was traveling extensively—about 180 overnights a year. We grew kind of quickly and we hired a CPO who wanted everybody to work out of Wisconsin, but money wasn’t going to do it for me. I was not going to uproot my family and move.

Shortly before that, we had gone from a direct sales force to an agency distribution model. I had access to independent agencies and I fell in love with the model, with the lifestyle and with the idea that they could be present in their communities, committed to their causes and be able to do what they desired to do to make an impact. I thought that was really, really wonderful.

At the time, I was working on a very large account through an independent agency, and I was given the choice of moving to Wisconsin or parting ways with the MGU. I decided to part ways, but I told the independent agency owner, “I’m not going to leave you hanging—I don’t want you to be adversely affected because of this decision.” We hit it off, and they said, “Look, let’s meet and talk.” That’s how I got into the independent agency system.

We were acquired about eight years later. I wanted ownership, but it was kind of sold out from underneath me. I called a local agency that had an unbelievable reputation in the industry and said, “Here’s who I am, and here’s what I’d like to do.” We got together and agreed we would set out on a path of ownership. Nine years later, I’m a partner in the firm, and I still absolutely love the business.

WORK/LIFE BALANCE?

I’ve never been wonderful at balancing work and home. But my wife, who is a tremendous inspiration to me, has been very supportive. We have an amazing staff, and I have a phenomenal assistant. So it’s a confluence of things that come together—unbelievable support at home and unbelievable support at the office.

WHAT SETS YOUR AGENCY APART?

Our position of win-win. When we embark on either taking on a new client or responding to a client need, we want to make sure they feel like they won and that we also feel like we won. It never is a positive thing when any number of parties come to the table and one of the parties walks away feeling like they lost. That tone has been set by our majority principal from years ago. It’s his mantra, it’s his way of life and it lines up directly with my desire to serve people.

INDUSTRY’S GREATEST STRENGTH?

Our greatest strength as independent agents is the freedom to do what is right for our clients. And I say that because when you work for any business that is only bottom line-driven, employees can be forced to make decisions that are outside their comfort zone with regard to their integrity and morality. At an independent agency, you can do the right thing day in day out and sleep very well. I sleep very well at night because I know that people’s futures are directly tied to the work that I do.

If I don’t do my job right, if somebody has a claim that was never contemplated and it financially buries them, that’s a big deal, and it should be. We have a great opportunity before us and a privilege to impact people’s lives, not just financially but emotionally.

INDUSTRY’S GREATEST WEAKNESS?

The insurance industry, by and large, is a financial animal at best. Our greatest weakness is when we lose sight of the true meaning of our work. We can set out on any given day to only worry about commissions and revenue and forget that we’re providing a service which has an impact on not just individuals, but entire communities. If a business can’t survive after a claim because it’s not written properly, that’s going to affect that business, everybody who’s employed, the owners, the children of the owners, the vendors—it’s like a rock in the water.

That has an impact on my decisions and the way I approach the business and assess the risk and the coverage I write. When we lose sight of the reason we exist and for whom we exist, that’s our greatest weakness.

BIGGEST CAREER MISTAKE?

I’ve always been very loyal, sometimes to a fault. Many times, I invested more into a company than they were willing to invest in me, and I realized it too late. I lost too much that way. I’m sure I’ve done things wrong, but I don’t believe in coincidences, so all my decisions—right, wrong or indifferent—brought me to where I am today.

Photo by Kelly & Massa Photography