While adapting to new technology is no challenge for Matthew Washburn, getting appointed with carriers that hesitate to work with a small agency like his is another story.
Washburn & Wilson Agency, Inc.
Guilty pleasure TV show: Gotham
Favorite beer: “I’m more into cider—it’s like drinking candy.”
Preferred social media: Facebook
My dad and I started our agency from scratch. Almost 10 years ago I was graduating college, and my dad had been in the insurance business for two years. He had the opportunity to talk with someone in the industry, who suggested my dad just do it on his own. So we opened up an office where there had been one in the past that had been bought out by a bigger agency in the area. The location itself stirred some business just because people knew insurance was in the office here, so that’s kind of how we segued into it.
When I was in college, people would ask me, “What are you going to do?” I really had no idea. I had a business administration degree, and I remember saying I wanted something that involves talking to people, a little office work, daily challenges—that kind of thing. That’s kind of where I’m at now. Every day you never know what you’re going to end up with.
It’s very blended. Your clients are your friends—that’s how it works. If you’re not doing that, you’re doing something wrong. You want everybody to be your client. But it is a struggle. There are long hours. At the end of the day, you don’t leave at 4 or 4:30 because you have clients that want stuff done. Since we don’t have the staff, that’s just the way it is—you work ‘til it’s done, and sometimes that cuts into having fun.
Half of it’s the pressure of knowing you have a commitment with companies, and the other is the bottom line. You’re just trying to make a business work. Seeing our book of business grow and having goals in that respect and looking at our overall gross income—the more business I write, the more competitive I get.
Biggest role model?
The guy who actually owned the building where our office is now. He’s been in insurance for like 40 years and sold out when he had 11 agencies and it was retirement time. I’ve always talked to him about it and discussed where we are and what we’re doing, listening to what he had to say about all of it to make sure we were headed in the right direction or not, and how we should think about things.
Millennial stereotype that fits you?
The fact that technology does not scare me and I dive into it, because that is the only way we have made our business work. We’ve gotten to the point where we only need a laptop and a cell phone that has good service, and people don’t even know we’re not in the office. We just started doing electronic signatures—you don’t even realize the effort that saves until you do it, and then you’re like, “Wow.”
The biggest struggle is finding the markets for the clients that come in the door. We don’t have some of the companies everybody else has because it can be pretty tough to get appointed with them if they feel like they’re saturated in the area already. I’m always disappointed when companies don’t want to work with us because we’re too small.
This article is the ninth in a series that profiles 10 millennials in independent insurance, based on IA’s July cover story.
Jacquelyn Connelly is IA senior editor.