President and Account Executive
Bismarck, North Dakota
iPhone or Android? iPhone
Favorite streaming service? Netflix
What’s in your earbuds currently? Country, country and more country
What brought you to insurance?
I worked for Verizon Wireless for seven years. I was moving up through the ranks there, and my wife and I decided we wanted to be closer to home and start a family. My father-in-law Steve Bain is CEO of my agency—he’s been in the industry for 37 years now. At that point, he sat down with me and said, “Why don’t you consider coming to work for me and selling insurance?”
For millennials, when you think of exciting careers you want to do long-term, insurance doesn’t come to mind. But a big part of that was because I didn’t know anything about it. So through several conversations with him and discussions about future and potential, it was something I became comfortable with. I started just about six years ago and haven’t regretted it one day since.
What keeps you in it?
I read an interesting article that said for a large portion of millennials who are entering the job market, by the time they retire, they’ll have a job title that doesn’t even exist yet. So many things are changing and starting in the insurance industry. Millennials have an opportunity to not only be part of that change, but actually make that change happen because there are so many people retiring. Why wouldn’t you want to join an industry where you can have such a large impact?
It’s been a process from day 1 when I started—the dangling carrot that if I do well and succeed and enjoy it, there’s potential to be able to buy into the agency. We had talked about actually implementing it about a year and a half earlier than we did, and we just found that it took longer. It took us several years to figure out how we wanted to structure it, how long we wanted it to take, what continued mentorship would look like, and so on. I bought into the agency October of last year, so I am 49% owner now. My father-in-law is still 51% owner. He is continuing to transfer more and more responsibilities over to me and letting me lead in different areas, learn and grow.
My advice to everybody is start early and have that plan in place, because you never know what the future holds for you, for your agency, for your family. If something changes and you want to exit but you aren’t planning, then you’re in a situation where you might have to sell your agency or do something different than what you really want to do. You can never be too prepared.
My father worked countless hours, overnight jobs, two jobs, three jobs to be able to support the family and give us the opportunity and life we had. That work ethic alone taught me you can’t just sit back and expect things to be given to you. You have to push yourself to get the things you want in life.
My father-in-law would be the other one, because he’s done the same here at the agency. He’s given me the tools to succeed by helping with the technical knowledge, showing me different ways to do presentations and work with clients, relationship building—between all these ins and outs of what he’s learned in his career, he’s given me the platform to succeed. And not only that—he’s trusted me. When I talk to other young agents throughout the nation, I hear it’s often difficult to gain the trust of your principals to the point where they’re comfortable allowing you to make some of the changes. It’s one thing to trust your employees, but it’s another to push them and put them in a position where they have to either sink or swim. You’re either going to succeed and grow, or you’re going to fail, and trust that your mentors will do the right thing and be there for support if you do.
And you better believe I don’t want to fail because of that. My father-in-law’s name is on the agency and it’s going to stay on the agency, and that makes me want to do better. My whole goal is to leave the agency better than when I came. Long-term, I want to have 20 locations. We have one right now. Will I reach my goal? Who knows, but I sure as heck am going to try, and the only way I can reach that is by him empowering me to make some of those changes.
Most annoying millennial stereotype?
We definitely get a bad rap. I hear a lot that the younger generation just doesn’t have the work ethic the older generations do. But at our agency, I put more hours in than anybody. We have a relatively younger agency and I’m here ’til 12:30, 1 in the morning some nights working with other young agents, so to say that our work ethic is not there—that one kind of drives me nuts. Sometimes I think it’s about people settling for jobs and not really enjoying what they do, or simply not being motivated by the right factors. You have to understand yourself, what motivates you, what you want out of your life. You have to have goals.
Millennial stereotype that fits you?
I think millennials are a little more adaptable to change. We get bored easily. We want a job that challenges us but also changes. The most expensive words a business can say are, “We’ve always done it that way.” Change is a good thing. I’m always looking for ways we can change our agency, ways I can change my approach, my products, whatever it may be to keep things rolling along.
Industry’s biggest challenge?
The age of the leaders in our industry. I often hear from other millennials that they aren’t being empowered and they aren’t being used for some of their knowledge of technology. There are a lot of young agents within the industry—we just aren’t being utilized properly. It’s one thing to have a problem attracting young agents in the first place, but when we do get the young agents in here, I think we have a failure of training and mentoring and giving them the resources they need to grow. If your younger generation doesn’t feel like it has the support or the confidence or the trust, or it doesn’t feel like you’re willing to contribute to their success, pay money to send them to something that can train them to help better them, we have a whole other problem on our hands.
This article is the third in a series that profiles 10 millennials in independent insurance, based on IA’s July cover story. Keep an eye on IAmagazine.com and upcoming editions of the News & Views e-newsletter for more insights into how young people are working to secure the future of your industry.
Jacquelyn Connelly is IA senior editor.