When Derek Ross first took his child to an indoor playground, he thought, “Wow, these aren’t so clean. They’re not so safe! Who’s the insurance broker behind these?” Finding limited representation, he purchased every URL he could think of related to insurance for them and built independent websites for each URL, all branded to Kulchin Ross. Now, leads feed to the agency.
Ross and Kulchin have used the model for everything from marijuana to mechanical bulls. But their success, says Ross, ultimately comes from being “selective about how and with whom we do business.”
Eight producers generate annual gross revenues approaching $5 million. Business is split equally between commercial and personal lines, and life-health represents less than 5%. A third of the firm’s 5,000 customers are commercial accounts.
Derek Ross, President
We select pleasant clients and team members. If you’re not a pleasant individual, then our firm isn’t the place for you. Our management style is to foster a healthy, well-nourished and balanced culture. We provide the training, tools and resources and then expect our team to perform. They have so much leeway and ability that they make most decisions without my partner or me being involved. Everyone knows nothing is above or below anyone’s pay grade. We all help each other. A candidate for the team goes through multi-level interviews, but the team makes the final decision.
I’m 45 and started in this business at 15. The agency owner who hired me also mentored me. He taught me that as soon as you become an owner, you have to identify your perpetuation plan. Our plan is to continue bringing young people into our agency, develop them and allow them to take our foundation and ideas and formulate a new vision.
About five years ago, we developed our own program where we teach at a high-performing charter school in Los Angeles County. These are bright, driven juniors and seniors. We talk to them about life, integrity and insurance. It’s become a wonderful feeder tool to bring young people into our agency.*
William Kulchin, CEO
We’re always forward thinking and have a lot of program business. I’ve written apparel insurance for 30 years. We’re not for sale. We’re not looking for private equity money. We have no debt, and we don’t even have a company credit card. We own everything in our office outright. We’ve been fortunate to develop long-term relationships. We believe we’re building a wonderful platform for our staff and customers. We’ve developed amazing acquisitions of agencies and producers, and the agencies we acquire understand that we believe in legacies. They’re leaving their customers and their legacy with us to improve on.
Our team members are solution-based thinkers with the best interest of our company and our clients at heart. Their performances aren’t benchmarked in terms of charts and graphs. We don’t have meetings to audit and identify what they’re doing or not doing. The attitudes of our customers and the effectiveness of our workflows are what count.
Vanessa Chauvie, Human Resource Director and Client Relationship Manager
Our oldest employee, John Glaser, and our youngest, Macaila Lawton, both have insurance licenses. It’s fantastic to watch an 81-year-old and a 20-year-old work together. We give our team breathing room to succeed in a flexible environment that doesn’t impact their personal lives. With remote working tools, employees with young families can work effectively from home while parenting. Our workweek is 36.5 hours. We restrict access to our Vertafore AMS 360 system outside office hours. We manage workflows, so no one is overwhelmed. We staff properly and have redundancy in our processes, so that if one person is out, another can fill in.
We pick up every holiday available. If every day could be a holiday, we’d close the office every day. We celebrate as a team family, from Halloween costume parties to Thanksgiving potlucks and ugly sweater parties at Christmas.
Although Kulchin Ross works independently on its educational program, you can take advantage of the free resources of InVEST, the national program for educating high school and community college students on insurance, financial services and risk management. Why not help prepare the next generation to ensure the future of your agency and the independent insurance channel?