Leaning into technology "was a saving grace during the pandemic," says Matthew Washburn, independent agent. "I don't even know how we could have managed without that preparation."
Currently streaming: Schitt's Creek
In your earbuds: The background music at the office, which is '80s rock and roll
Preferred social media: Facebook
What's changed over the last five years?
We joined an aggregate premium organization, North American Insurance Alliance (NAIA), and they've been able to help us leverage their relationship with companies. We don't have to worry so much about dealing with the company side of things. As a very small independent agency, one guy doesn't have much say with a company, so that's a gamechanger.
I got a rescue dog last fall, Charlie, and he hangs out in the office all day so clients get to meet him. The hardest part is that because everyone has their masks on he can get a little scared sometimes.
Last time you said the competitive aspect of managing a well-run business is a big motivator. Has that changed over the years?
That hasn't changed—meeting goals and keeping a business running well and making clients happy. The thing that has changed is what I have to focus on now. My partner is my dad, so as he gets closer to retirement I have to start thinking about hiring more people and transitioning more and more into a formal management role.
Currently, it's just three of us here. We did hire one employee recently—NAIA helped me navigate that, and I also used a Big “I" partner IdealTraits. Hiring people with the same values as far as customer service makes me a little nervous to think about, but I'm sure we'll get it done.
You said one millennial stereotype that fits you is that you dive into technology. How has that developed?
It was a saving grace during the pandemic. My dad and I could still come into the office because we're family members, but our other employee could not. From day one, she was able to answer the phone and do everything from home because I had already dove into a strategy for how to keep moving if something happened. I had always thought it would be a building fire or another Hurricane Irene. I don't even know how we could have managed without that preparation.
Advice for Gen Z?
Stick it out. There's a lot of different aspects to the industry and one area might fit you better. If you're just getting into it and you're not happy where you are, a lot of other agencies are in need of licensed staff right now and you can find employment somewhere else with a better culture fit for you.
AnneMarie McPherson is IA news editor.