Tom A. Goss
When Tom Goss joined his brother Greg’s agency in 1999, he brought a rich corporate leadership background and experience as athletic director of the University of Michigan. By 2000, Goss LLC was the first minority-certified insurance agency in Michigan, and Tom had spearheaded a three-way venture with Marsh USA and GMAC Insurance to develop auto supplier insurance programs.
After General Motors Co. went bankrupt, Tom adroitly diversified the agency book again, recruiting a third Goss brother, John, who had a safety background. They created a new internal safety unit that capitalized on workers’ compensation-related business. While the company handled a small portion of the insurance, it also has managed 100% of the worker safety for a few billion dollars of development in downtown Detroit.
AGENCY TURNED SAFETY FIRM?
I always look for new opportunities. Most construction companies use free-standing companies, but, with John’s skill to develop a safety unit, we could help manage the risk on major construction projects. Insurance companies are very comfortable talking to our firm because we understand how to prevent injury and train people. It has been a good add-on component to our daily insurance business.
WHAT KEEPS YOU GOING AT 73?
I’m Type A and have a lot of energy. I enjoy work as long as the business can be fun, we can come up with new ideas, and can bring other people into this business.
We’re working to expose diverse populations to the property-casualty business in Detroit. We pulled together a program with Wayne County Community College. Everybody knows about homeowners and auto, but they’re not as informed about securing assets. We hired a few of those students and were able to get other agencies to hire them, too.
Bringing new ideas to the middle market. Being a certified minority agency has given us opportunities with Fortune 50 companies as well as with small mom-and-pop companies. Obviously you pick up new ideas along the way. We’re working now to pull a workers’ comp program together for an organization with several thousand small-company members that have 5 to 25 employees each.
THOUGHTS ABOUT THE CHANNEL?
The independent channel could focus on opportunities with changing industries, whether it’s a technology or startup company. Many independent agencies stay away from companies that are small but have an avenue for large growth, thinking those companies only want larger brokers. But they want a partner who will give them good service and bring them good ideas as they look at their risk.
When we compete for those clients, very seldom do we run into other independent agencies. Usually we see the alphabet house—Aon, Gallagher, Marsh, Willis. Normally, the independent agency is grounded in its community with relationships, but we can all do a better job of utilizing those relationships. We even partner with other agencies that can bring value to our current clients.
I worked at three corporations and was able to run two of those. A senior manager helped me get to that point. He taught me how to focus on myself, to educate myself and not to be afraid to identify my shortcomings. He taught me to have a game plan to improve my shortcomings. I took his message and shared it with my brothers. I became the mentor.
PHOTO BY MARC-GREGOR CAMPREDON